A Christian college in Missouri is asking the United States Supreme Court to halt a Biden administration directive that requires schools to allow male students to be housed in women-only dormitories or use the girls’ showers. College of the Ozarks filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on Monday asking the high court to block a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development directive forcing the academic institution to open up gender-specific campus dorms to those of the opposite sex. “The Directive requires the College to reverse its housing policies for 1,300 students,” read the petition, in part. “And, unless the Directive is enjoined, it makes the College cease statements of its policies, preventing it from following through on ongoing plans and communications for student housing consistent with its religious beliefs.”
“This jeopardizes the College’s ability to function, causes emotional harm to students who rely on the College’s housing policies, and dissuades Christian students from attending the College.” Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal non-profit that has successfully argued religious liberty cases before the Supreme Court, is helping to represent the Christian college. ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch said in a statement that “College of the Ozarks should be free to follow the religious tradition on which it was founded.” “We hope the Supreme Court will take this case to halt the government’s inappropriate order targeting religious institutions and to respect the privacy, dignity, and safety of female students,” stated Bursch. In 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that required the Fair Housing Act antidiscrimination measures to include gender identity under the category of sex.
As a result of the change, the college filed suit against the federal government in April 2021, arguing that the new policy would force them to house male students in women’s dorms. U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark of the Western District of Missouri, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, ruled against the college in May 2021. In July 2022, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld the lower court ruling in a 2-1 decision, arguing that the HUD policy did not impact the college. Judge Steven Michael Colloton, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, authored the majority opinion, concluding that existing religious freedom measures sufficiently protected the school. “The College’s alleged injury also lacks imminence because it is speculative that HUD will file a charge of discrimination against the College in the first place,” Colloton wrote.
“Title IX provides that its anti-discrimination provision ‘shall not apply to an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization,’ if applying the prohibition ‘would not be consistent with the religious tenets of’ the organization.” Colloton added that “even when HUD interpreted the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity between 2012 and 2020, the Department brought no enforcement action against the College.” Circuit Judge Leonard Grasz, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, dissented, arguing that the directive went against the proper process of federal guidance, such as allowing for public comments. “An agency’s issuance of a guidance document that fails to adhere to the proper administrative procedures may achieve compliance with the government’s desired policy outcomes by in terrorem means, but it skirts the rule of law and undermines our values,” wrote Grasz.
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