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College of the Ozarks challenges Biden Administration over gender identity directive

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 2:21 PM CDT
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POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. (KY3) - The College of the Ozarks filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against the Biden administration over a directive concerning colleges and gender identity.

The lawsuit challenges a directive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which forces religious schools to open dormitories, including dorm rooms and shared shower spaces, to members of the opposite sex. Lawyers for College of the Ozarks argue the administration’s rule change forces religious schools to violate their beliefs by opening up female dorms to biological males and vice-versa, or face fines of up to six figures, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.

The lawsuit argues the HUD directive contradicts the historical judicial interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, which confirms that “sex” means biological sex. The suit also argues that the directive exceeds the administration’s authority and violates the constitutionally protected freedom of College of the Ozarks and similar religious institutions to operate consistently with their religious beliefs.

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom will represent the college.

“The government cannot and should not force schools to open girls’ dorms to males based on its politically motivated and inappropriate redefinition of ‘sex,’” said ADF Senior Counsel Julie Marie Blake. “Women shouldn’t be forced to share private spaces—including showers and dorm rooms—with males, and religious schools shouldn’t be punished simply because of their beliefs about marriage and biological sex. Government overreach by the Biden administration continues to victimize women, girls, and people of faith by gutting their legal protections, and it must be stopped.”

College of the Ozarks argues biological sex is not changeable, and it operates its dorms accordingly. The college’s sincerely held religious beliefs influence their policies, including dormitory policies, which prohibit male students from living in female residence halls, and vice versa.

“Religious freedom is under attack in America, and we won’t stand on the sidelines and watch,” said College of the Ozarks President, Dr. Jerry C. Davis. “To threaten religious freedom is to threaten America itself. College of the Ozarks will not allow politicians to erode this essential American right or the ideals that shaped America’s founding.”

College of the Ozarks is a private, Christian, liberal arts college in Point Lookout, Missouri. To achieve its vision, the college pursues academic, vocational, Christian, patriotic, and cultural goals that are mirrored in School of the Ozarks, a laboratory school that completes the K-college model.

To read the lawsuit, visit https://adfmedialegalfiles.blob.core.windows.net/files/CollegeoftheOzarksComplaint.pdf

To view the Housing and Urban Development directive, visit https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PA/documents/HUD_Memo_EO13988.pdf

To view the executive order, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/20/executive-order-preventing-and-combating-discrimination-on-basis-of-gender-identity-or-sexual-orientation/

KY3 News reached out to Southwest Baptist University, Drury University, Missouri State University, the GLO Center and the Missouri Human Rights Campaign. None were available for comment.

Evangel University sent a statement that reads:

“We are aware of the HUD directive, have been monitoring its development, and remain in close contact with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) since President Biden’s announcement in January and subsequent directive in February. As a Christian institution, we hold a Biblically-based view that gender is determined by one’s biological sex. Our sincerely held religious belief is that every man and woman is created in God’s image; therefore, our campus culture and structure reflect this by maintaining gender specific dorms and bathrooms on campus.

Evangel University is committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to become Spirit-empowered servants of God who impact the Church and society globally.”

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