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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 8. Education
Agency 40. State Council Of Higher Education For Virginia
Chapter 31. Regulations Governing Certification of Certain Institutions to Confer Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates
5/6/2021

8VAC40-31-50. Religious institutions.

A. The council shall exempt from the provisions of Chapter 21.1 (§ 23-276.1 et seq.) of Title 23 of the Code of Virginia any school whose primary purpose is to provide religious training or theological education, provided that the school:

1. Awards only degrees, diplomas, or certificates that (i) carry titles that indicate the school's primary purpose plainly upon their face and (ii) state that the school is excluded from the requirement of state certification; and

2. States plainly in its catalogs and other publications that (i) the school's primary purpose is to provide religious training or theological education; (ii) the school's degrees, diplomas, or certificates are so titled and worded; and (iii) the school is exempt from the requirement of state certification.

B. The title of each degree, diploma, or certificate awarded by a school that claims an exemption under the provisions of this section must reflect that the school's primary purpose is religious education.

1. The titles of religious degrees that may be awarded include, but are not limited to, (i) Bachelor of Education in a specific religion, (ii) Master of Divinity, and (iii) Doctor of Sacred Theology.

2. Secular degrees may not be awarded in any discipline, including religion, religious education, and biblical studies. Titles of secular degrees that may not be awarded include, but are not limited to, (i) Associate of Arts, (ii) Associate of Science, (iii) Associate of Applied Science, (iv) Associate of Occupational Science, (v) Bachelor of Arts, (vi) Bachelor of Science, (vii) Master of Arts, (viii) Master of Science, (ix) Doctor of Philosophy, and (x) Doctor of Education.

C. Exemptions granted after July 1, 2002, will be for a maximum of five years. A school wishing to maintain an exempt status must reapply to council at least six months prior to the expiration of the exemption period. An exempt school shall not make claims of "approval," "endorsement," or other such terms by the council in any of its promotional materials. An exempt school shall clearly state in its catalogs and promotional materials that it is exempt from the requirements of state regulation and oversight.

D. A school that awards secular degrees in addition to religious degrees, certificates or diplomas, as defined in subsections A and B of this section, must comply with the provisions for certification for all nonreligious degree programs.

E. Each school requesting religious exemption must apply on forms provided by and in a manner prescribed by the council.

F. The council, on its own motion, may initiate formal or informal inquiries to confirm that this chapter is not applicable to a religious school if the council has reason to believe that the school may be in violation of the provisions of this section.

1. Any school that claims an exemption under subsections A and B of this section on the basis that its primary purpose is to provide religious training or theological education shall be entitled to a rebuttable presumption of the truth of that claim.

2. It shall be the council's responsibility to show that a school is not exempt under subsections A and B of this section.

3. The council assumes no jurisdiction or right to regulate religious beliefs under this chapter.

G. A school whose claim for exemption under subsections A and B of this section is denied by the council shall have the opportunity to appeal the council's action in accordance with 8VAC40-31-70.

Statutory Authority

§ 23-276.3 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 22, Issue 23, eff. August 24, 2006; amended, Virginia Register Volume 30, Issue 8, eff. February 3, 2014.

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