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Published January 13, 2022

ND Catholic Conference Asks UND to “Reject” Gender Inclusion Proposal

Written by
Jasahd Stewart
| The Dakotan
Gender Identities and Expressions [Image: Taken from LGBTQ Basics video through UND Pride Center]
Gender Identities and Expressions [Image: Taken from LGBTQ Basics video through UND Pride Center]

Sends letter to parents

GRAND FORKS—The North Dakota Catholic Conference sent out a letter to parents on January 10 urging them to “examine the [UND] campus environment” and to discern whether the ideologies and policies practiced there are “conducive or hostile” to the Catholic faith and human rights. 

This comes after the NDCC sent a similar letter to UND last fall asking them to “reject” a draft policy dealing with gender inclusion.  

NDCC’s Executive Director Christopher Dodson wrote the letter to UND on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of ND, Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck and Bishop John Folda of Fargo, stating, “We seek engagement in public policy matters that are not only a concern for the Catholic Church, but also for its adherents, all the people of faith, and the common good of the state,” concluding, “We respectfully request that UND reject the proposed Gender Inclusion policy.” 

The policy states, “UND strives to ensure every member of the UND community is free from discrimination based upon their gender identity and/or gender expression and has equal access to UND-sponsored programs and activities.” 

To promote gender inclusion, under the policy a person could be accused of discrimination for failure to acknowledge another individual’s gender identity and pronouns. 

The draft defines gender-inclusive language as, “Language that does not discriminate against a particular sex, gender, identity, or gender expression and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes. Gender-inclusive language does not make gender visible when it is not relevant for communication and does not assume a gender binary.” [see p.3 for definitions

To bring about the goals of more equality and a discrimination free environment for students, the policy would allow “students, employees, and visitors” to access facilities and housing accommodations based on their gender identities and gender expressions

The NDCC’s letter expressed concerns with legality of the policy as well as inconsistencies of discrimination against people of faith or who have convictions about gender that comport with biological science. 

Appealing to the First Amendment, Dodson stated, “This proposal goes beyond setting mere rules for administrative tasks. Indeed, it embraces and demands acceptance of a particular ideology about gender and language that infringes upon free speech and religious rights.” 

UND President Andrew Armacost countered with a statement by appealing to “federal law, Supreme Court rulings, North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights Policy, and State Board of Higher Education policy,” accusing the Catholic Conference of making statements “that simply aren’t true.”  

On equality and rights, he continued, “We are firmly committed to freedom of religious expression and fully recognize that, as we address the rights of one group, we cannot do it to the detriment of the rights of another group.” 

The letter concludes with UND’s full support “of the rights for our LGBTQ+ community as well as all members of religious groups on campus,” declaring that none should be denied education or employment “on the basis of any legally protected category.” 

UND will be announcing a press conference for Friday, Jan. 14, on the matter, which Armacost welcomed NDCC leadership to attend. 

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