Groups raise religious liberty, civil rights concerns with Title IX changes


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As the debate over Title IX reform in the Missouri General Assembly continues, some groups have raised concerns over how the legislation would affect civil rights, including religious liberties.

Jerry Davis, president of the College of the Ozarks (C of O), said current legislation regarding Title IX reform “is clearly detrimental to Missouri’s faith-based private colleges and their students.”

“More importantly for private colleges in Missouri, this bill would begin the process of placing the religious liberty of faith-based colleges, such as C of O, on a dangerous, slippery slope,” Davis said in an open letter to the General Assembly. The legislation “would require colleges to hand over these cases to state bureaucrats, as opposed to our measured Biblical approach currently afforded in these situations.”

A copy of the letter was provided to The Missouri Times.

Davis said the legislation would not only impact operating costs for the private, religious school but also “decrease the number of students served within our mission.” He argued the Senate’s version of the legislation would result in the “dilution” of its already high standards regarding student conduct.

Additionally, Davis expressed concern with the legislation not providing provisions for lower-income students who may need a public defender or lawyer in cases of misconduct.

“This omission would place the economically disadvantaged students attending C of O in an untenable position,” he said.

The Missouri NAACP also reaffirmed its position supporting Title IX protections earlier this week.

“We cannot allow further erosion of civil rights in Missouri by allowing protections against sexual assault on college campuses through Title IX to be taken away,” Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. said in a statement. “Missouri needs help enforcing the protection of civil rights and can do better.”

Earlier this month, the St. Louis County NAACP endorsed the Title IX legislation and said it stood by David Steward, the St. Louis philanthropist funding the group pushing for the bill. The organization said it “applauds” Steward as someone who is using his “resources and courage to support, shed light and effect change on a serious civil rights issue about the denial of due process to African American men on college campuses.”

The legislation in question includes HB 573 and SB 259. The House bill passed out of committee earlier this month, and the Senate’s version sits on its perfection calendar.

Among other things, the controversial legislation allows those involved in campus sexual misconduct cases an opportunity for outside appeal with the Administration Hearing Commission, includes rape-shield protection laws for victims, and mandates colleges use the same evidence standards for all cases.