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OMAHA, Nebraska, January 7, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Nebraska's Catholic bishops are urging official recognition of students' God-given gender in the state's high schools' activities, saying that allowing gender ideology in school events would have a bad influence on regard for the family and human person.

“Any person who experiences gender dysphoria is entitled to the respect and dignity that is the right of every human person, as well as genuine concern and the support needed for personal development and well-being,” the bishops said in a January 4 statement. “Such support, however, must be provided with due consideration to fairness and the safety, privacy, and rights of all students.”

The three bishops, Omaha Archbishop George Lucas, Lincoln Bishop James Conley, and Grand Island Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt, issued the message via the Nebraska Catholic Conference to address the forthcoming vote by the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) on policies covering participation of minors with gender dysphoria in high school activities.

The “sex on the certificate at birth” bylaw amendment was scheduled for a vote by NSAA high schools in the Nebraska panhandle January 6, with NSAA high schools in the rest of the state set to vote on January 13.

At stake is whether male students can participate in female sports and likewise if females can take part in male sports. The vote's outcome would presumably establish legal foundation for litigation on such issues as locker room and restroom use, religious liberty, and students' and staff's freedom of conscience.

Passage of the amendment would mean formal adoption of current NSAA practice that students participate in activities according to their sex at birth, hence the Nebraska bishops' support for the proposal. The state's diocesan high schools that are members of the NSAA will be voting in favor of it, the bishops said.

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“We strongly urge all NSAA member schools to vote in favor of the 'sex on the certificate at birth' bylaw amendment proposal at their district meetings on January 6th and 13th,” their statement said.

They quoted Pope Francis's recent comments on the corresponding biological natures of males and females, and the primacy of this nature, in support of their basis for opposition to allowing gender ideology into Nebraska high school activities.

“The complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of the divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society,” the Holy Father said. “The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the 'image and likeness' of God.”

The bishops also drew from the Holy Father's immediate predecessor to illustrate their position, quoting pope emeritus Benedict XVI on the seriousness of gender ideology:

The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation.

While high school activities are an important part of students' development, the Nebraska prelates said, it was not fair to allow the detriment of gender ideology to affect such school activities.

“It would be unjust to allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology to shape either what is taught or how activities are conducted in our schools,” they stated. “This would certainly have a negative impact on students' and society's attitudes towards the fundamental nature of the human person and the family.