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Roughly five years ago, a teenager at a private Christian school became pregnant. Visibly pregnant. And that was the problem right there. The girl chose not to have an abortion because it violated her religious beliefs. Because she didn’t do that, though, the school punished her for having premarital sex: She wasn’t allowed to receive her diploma on stage with the other graduates. It raised a lot of questions about the message sent by that Christian institution: Weren’t they basically incentivizing students to get an abortion in that situation?

I thought of that story when I heard about Mara Louk, a senior at Visible Music College, a Christian school in Memphis, Tennessee.

As reported by NBC News‘ Tyler Kingkade, Louk was sexually assaulted by a classmate last year. At the very least, she hoped that by reporting the assault, the school would make sure that student wasn’t in any of her classes and not a threat to her own well-being. She also reported the crime to police.

The police said they didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest. That in itself is one issue, but the bar for punishment was significantly lower at the school, where Louk wasn’t expecting an expulsion. She just wanted the school to enforce some kind of distance between the two, so he couldn’t hurt her, in addition to other steps they might take.

Instead, they did even less than the bare minimum.

… Visible Music College administrators also told her they would not remove the accused student from her classes because police didn’t arrest him, nor would they conduct a Title IX investigation, because the alleged assault happened off campus. And administrators attempted to bar Louk from telling anyone else at the school that she had been raped, she said.

It gets worse.

The accused student was someone Louk had confided in, and when he was brought in for questioning, he told school officials that she had slept with her ex-boyfriend prior to the night of the alleged incident. Louk denied that ever happened.

Still, the school used that information against her.

The college wanted Louk to sign what it called a “pastoral care contract,” confessing to breaking rules on premarital sex. According to a copy of the contract reviewed by NBC News, Louk would be required to finish her degree online, barred from campus and prohibited from talking to other students about her alleged assault.

“We strongly believe that these restrictions will aid in bringing some needed structure, and will ensure that you are able to address the spiritual and emotional issues behind the infringements,” the contract stated.

So because Louk went to school authorities about an alleged sexual assault, they punished her for consensual sex with someone else… which she denied. Because of that, she refused to sign that contract admitting she broke the premarital sex rules. She later finished the semester online before dropping out entirely and moving back home. She was only nine credits short of graduating.

Her predicament raises all kinds of legal and ethical concerns.

Legally, Louk has filed a complaint with the Department of Education calling on two investigations into the school:

One would evaluate whether the school violated the Clery Act, a federal campus safety law that requires colleges to advise students who report a sexual offense of their rights and assistance options. The other would examine whether the school discriminated against Louk under the gender equity law Title IX.

Ethically, though, things are even less clear-cut. Because, once again, what message is the school sending? The best course of action for Louk, if she wanted to graduate, would have been to stay silent about her attack, remain in close proximity to her assailant, and put other students at risk by not going public about what happened. But by speaking out, the school only ended up punishing Louk for something she may or may not have done with a previous boyfriend, which no decent school should even punish in the first place.

The message from the school is clear: Victims of sexual assault need to shut up, or their past may be used against them, and if they speak up, there’s no reason to think the school will do anything about it.

Even conservative religious schools like Brigham Young University have a better system here: Since 2017, BYU has offered amnesty to sexual assault victims, meaning that they won’t be punished for having premarital sex, drinking, or using drugs (all forbidden under school rules) if they report an assault that stemmed from those things. That’s obviously the right move at a religious school. Some things are more important than punishing arbitrary “sins.”

Part of the problem is that schools currently have a Trump-era Title IX loophole that allows them to basically ignore certain sexual assaults that occur off-campus, even though many students live in dorm-adjacent apartments and have to go to class with their alleged assailants. The Biden administration could (and should) reverse those policies.

But you don’t need government mandates to do the right thing, and Visible Music College has chosen the wrong path many times over in just this one case.

They care more about punishing imaginary sins than investigating actual crimes.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.