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Articles

The 50th anniversary of Title IX and the future of women’s sports

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June 23, 2022

Fifty years ago, President Nixon signed into law Title IX Education Amendments of 1972, a landmark policy for women and girls. Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This important policy was intended to provide equal opportunities for men and women seeking to participate in activities and educational institutions receiving funding from the U.S. government. One of the most notable ways Title IX has benefited thousands of women is their ability to equally participate in sports. Catherine Parks writes, “many young girls now have the hope of competing at a collegiate level with all the benefits Title IX provides. The ability to earn a scholarship and compete at this level can be life changing. Women are more likely to attend college and graduate when offered an athletic scholarship.”

Women’s sports and the transgender movement

The 50th anniversary of Title IX is worth celebrating for all that it has meant for women and girls and their ability to fully and fairly participate in sports. However, in recent years, equal athletic opportunities for biological females have been repeatedly compromised by the participation of transgender athletes in women’s sports.

In 2020, three star female track athletes lodged a high-profile lawsuit targeting their Connecticut conference’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports. The defendants alleged that two biological males won 15 state high school championships over three years, stripping biological women of crucial advancement and scholarship opportunities. In 2021, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, but the athletes are appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. 

Transgender atheletes are also challenging the integrity of women’s sports on the collegiate level. In March 2022, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas won the NCAA 500-meter freestyle championship. Thomas, a biological male, competed on the men’s swimming team for two years before joining the women’s team after undergoing a year of hormonal therapies. Thomas struggled to break out while swimming against men, but the swimmer quickly dominated national competition after switching to compete against biological women. Controversy swirled around Thomas’ status on the women’s team, as multiple female swimmers protested and team parents raised concerns over lost opportunities and championships for their children.  FINA, the international swimming governing body, responded by banning male-to-female transgender swimmers from competition unless the transition occurred before the onset of puberty.

At least 13 states have banned biological males who identify as women from competing in women’s sports. States are beginning to recognize the irony of forcing female athletes to compete against biological males: these policies are explicit reversals of the very Title IX antidiscrimination measures meant to secure equal opportunities for women. Biological males enjoy a natural advantage when competing against women, and proposed redefinitions of Title IX protections discriminate against young women by expecting them to overcome those disadvantages.

Department of Education’s proposed changes

Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced proposed changes to Title IX regulations that would have sweeping effects on the original intent and purpose of Title IX. The department stated that it intends to prohibit discrimination “based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” In short, the department wants to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI). This is significant because it would allow for biological men to participate in women’s sports, particularly at a collegiate level, and would penalize institutions that did not expand the definition of sex to include SOGI.

The department’s proposed Title IX regulations will be open for public comment for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. The ERLC will submit public comments on this proposed rule.

Why does this matter to Christians

It is becoming increasingly clear that issues of gender identity and sexual orientation will continue to be debated in our culture. Given that, Christians are, and will continue to be, confronted with difficult situations in their schools and universities that revolve around transgender athletes. As these challenges arise, Christians need to know how to respond. We uphold the design of our Creator, who chose to endow men and women with equal value, yet distinct physical attributes. In this context, our intentional physical make-up as men and women, boys and girls has implications for the way we perform in athletic competition, and those differences should be acknowledged and valued.

The important protections that Title IX offers girls and women are in jeopardy if additional steps are taken to allow biological men to compete in female athletics. The blurred line in the definition of sex is going to lead to the deterioration of women’s sports all together. Christians need to be firmly grounded in what the Bible  teaches about biological sex and be ready to give an answer to the neighbors, family members, and larger culture around us. As we watch our daughters and sons train and compete, we should rejoice at the beauty of God’s design for creation and seek to teach our children and those that God has put in our path to disciple that every one of us is loved and purposely created to point to the One in whose image we were made. 

How the ERLC is involved

The ERLC is supports the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. This act would clarify that it is a Title IX violation for schools that receive federal education funds to permit biological males to participate in female sports. We call on Congress to protect women and girls by ensuring they are given a fair opportunity to compete in athletics. 

The ERLC is also strongly opposed to the Equality Act. In addition to being detrimental to the issue of women’s sports participation, “the bill would curtail religious freedom protections, hinder the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately steamroll the consciences of millions of Americans.”

We will always affirm the biological differences between male and female reflected in God’s creation and uphold the Southern Baptist Convention’s position on gender identity stated in its summary of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, which says, “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.”

ERLC Interns Daniel Hostetter and Cooper Shull contributed to this article.

Policy Staff

The policy staff works on behalf of the Southern Baptist interests in the ERLC's Washington, D.C., office, the Leland House. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24