WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees said Oct. 27 that companion bills in the House and Senate are needed measures to protect athletic programs designated for women and girls at educational institutions that receive Title IX funds for these programs.

Under the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act — S. 4649 and H.R. 5702 — schools that allow transgender females to compete in girls athletics would lose federal funding.

“Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was a needed landmark to establish equal educational opportunities for women and girls,” said a joint letter to congressional leaders from Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, Oklahoma, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“But any time a policy facilitating such male competition takes an athletic opportunity away from a female,” they wrote, “it is a loss for basic fairness and the spirit of Title IX. We can do better by all students and should continue to uphold the progress made with Title IX in promoting the opportunities for women and girls.”

S. 4649 and H.R. 5702 “would help ensure the continued viability of Title IX,” the bishops said in their letter addressed to Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, and Rep. Greg Steube, R-Florida, who sponsored the measures in their respective chambers.

“Youth who experience gender identity discordance should be assured the right to participate in, or try out for, student athletics on the same terms as any of their peers, in coeducational activities or, where sexes are separated, in accord with their given sex,” the bishops said. “Harassment or unjust discrimination against them in this regard is unequivocally immoral.”

The bishops said “a loving response which affirms the value of persons as fellow human beings helps them to develop a genuine peace with their mind and body, rather than facilitating drastic ‘transitions’ in pursuit of an identity fully independent of their physical body.”

Male competition in athletic activities “designated for women and girls can be both unfair and, especially in high-contact sports, unsafe,” they said, adding that situations where transgender female athletes who are biologically male want to compete in programs for women and girls are increasing in number.

Across the country, 17 state legislatures have introduced bills that would restrict transgender women and girls from competing in sports aligned with their gender identity as opposed to their male biology. In February, the families of three female high school runners filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from participating in girls’ sports.

“Any time a policy facilitating such male competition takes an athletic opportunity away from a female, it is a loss for basic fairness and the spirit of Title IX,” said Bishop Barber and Bishop Konderla.

However, they said, “we reiterate the need for these students to be welcomed without reservation into appropriate athletic opportunities.”

They quoted Pope Francis as to why the Catholic Church is interested in sports — “because the person is at her heart, the whole person, and she recognizes that sports activity affects the formation, relations and spirituality of a person.”

The bishops added: “True education aims at the formation of the human person as a unity of body, soul and spirit.”

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