A Christian college in southern Missouri lost a legal fight this week when a federal judge ruled it must open up female dormitories and restrooms to male students, or face harsh fines.
The College of the Ozarks last month sued the Biden administration, arguing that an executive order on “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” would force the school to violate its own values by permitting men to use facilities for women.
“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love. Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” President Joe Biden said in the Jan. 20 executive order.
“Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.”
The order essentially deemed that the government’s position would be that gender is not based on biological sex, but rather is defined as a person’s expressed gender identity.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development a month later vowed to enforce the civil rights movement-era Fair Housing Act to ensure compliance where applicable. HUD, citing Biden’s order, announced that enforcement of the act was “to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The College of the Ozarks argued the ruling was a violation of religious liberty.
“The Biden Administration’s policy forces College of the Ozarks to decide between defending its religious liberty from government overreach or violating our core beliefs,” school President Jerry Davis said in a media release obtained by Branson Tri-Lakes News.
“The government’s threats include harmful fines that could easily amount to six figures. Fair Housing Act penalties can even land people in jail. College of the Ozarks will not stand on the sidelines while our right to religious freedom is attacked,” Davis added.
“That is why we filed a lawsuit with Alliance Defending Freedom to protect our female students and the Christian education we provide.”
The school sued, seeking a temporary restraining order against HUD’s enforcing of the Fair Housing Act, but on Wednesday, Judge Roseann Ketchmark ruled against the school, Fox News reported.
The school’s lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Missouri, and argued the HUD directive “requires private religious colleges to place biological males into female dormitories and to assign them as females’ roommates,” the Springfield News-Leader reported.
According to Fox News, the school’s lawsuit stated the College of the Ozarks “has long been guided by a Biblical worldview that all people should be treated with dignity, grace, and holy love, whatever their sexual beliefs,” but added it “teaches that sex as determined at birth is a person’s God-given, objective gender, whether or not it differs from their internal sense of ‘gender identity.’”
The suit concluded that federal gender directives would create “immediate upheaval within the College’s continuing enforcement of its housing policies.”
Ketchmark’s ruling opens up the school to receiving hefty fines if it does not comply.
Christian nonprofit legal group the Alliance Defending Freedom had taken up the case on behalf of the school. ADF legal strategist Ryan Bangert spoke to Fox with regard to how the federal government’s directives affect the school, its students and its founding principles.
“If you have a male who identifies as female, that student must be allowed to access female dormitories,” Bangert, whose group had slammed the Biden administration over its gender guidelines, said.
The ADF said the issue was one pertaining to religious liberty.
“Our Constitution protects the right of faith-based institutions to operate according to their beliefs. It also protects our freedom by separating power and limiting government,” the ADF told Fox in a statement. “And in this case the government is clearly overreaching.”
“Young women shouldn’t be forced to share private spaces — including showers and dorm rooms — with males.”
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