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College of the Ozarks Asks Supreme Court to Protect Its Freedom

College of the Ozarks filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over an order to redefine ‘sex’ to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’
Alliance Defending Freedom
College of the Ozarks filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over an order to redefine ‘sex’ to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’

When President Joe Biden took office in 2021, he didn’t waste any time implementing policies that threaten our most basic freedoms.

Case in point: on his very first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order redefining “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”—a sweeping mandate with a whole host of implications.

One of those implications became reality three weeks later, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a rule change. Under the new rules, religious schools are forced to open their sex-specific dormitories, including dorm rooms and showers, to members of the opposite sex.

As you can probably imagine, this didn’t sit well with many faith-based institutions. That included College of the Ozarks, so its administration decided to do something about it.

Read on to learn more about the lawsuit that College of the Ozarks filed to protect its religious freedom.


College of the Ozarks filed a lawsuit over its right to operate according to its beliefs.
College of the Ozarks filed a lawsuit over its right to operate according to its beliefs.



What is College of the Ozarks?

Founded in 1906, College of the Ozarks is a religious school in Missouri that aims to provide its students a Christian education. The college’s vision is to develop citizens of Christ-like character who are well-educated, hardworking, and patriotic.

No students pay tuition at College of the Ozarks. Instead, they work on campus to help pay their way through school. The remainder of the costs are covered by donations.

Because of this unique arrangement, in 1973 a Wall Street Journal article referred to the college as “Hard Work U.”—a label that College of the Ozarks has since embraced.


College of the Ozarks v. Biden

At College of the Ozarks, the Christian faith is at the center of everything. For example, the college holds to a Christian belief that biological sex is not changeable, and it operates its dorms accordingly.

But according to HUD’s rule change, colleges and universities nationwide—including faith-based institutions—would be forced to open girls’ dorms to male students.

And the rule change wouldn’t just force these schools to open up residence halls by floor; it would also force them to place males in girls’ dorms as roommates and to allow them to use communal bathrooms and showers.

And that was something that College of the Ozarks couldn’t—and shouldn’t have to—accept, so with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, it filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration.

The lawsuit explains that the HUD directive contradicts the clear wording, meaning, and historical interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, which confirms that “sex” means biological sex.

In addition, the lawsuit argues that the agency violated procedural requirements by not allowing public notice and comment, and that the directive violates the constitutional right of College of the Ozarks and similar religious institutions to operate consistently with their religious beliefs.


What’s at stake?

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.

And in this case the government is clearly overreaching. After all, government officials are bound by the law—and forcing religious colleges to allow male students to live in girls’ dorms clearly violates the law.

The government cannot force religious institutions to violate their beliefs. And it has no business forcing young women to share private spaces with males.

That’s why ADF is asking the Supreme Court to hear this important lawsuit.


Case timeline

  • April 2021: Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of College of the Ozarks.
  • May 2021: ADF attorneys represented the college in federal court.
  • June 2021: ADF attorneys asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit to halt the Biden administration’s directive. The request for the injunction while the case proceeded came after the district court had declined to issue one and dismissed the case. The 8th Circuit granted ADF’s request to expedite the case.
  • November 2021: Oral arguments took place in the college’s lawsuit.
  • September 2022: ADF attorneys filed a petition with the 8th Circuit that asked the full court to hear the college's lawsuit against the Biden administration after a three-judge panel dismissed the college's religious freedom concerns. This petition was denied.
  • February 2023: ADF attorneys representing College of the Ozarks asked the Supreme Court to review the 8th Circuit’s decision in the college’s lawsuit.


The bottom line

The government cannot force schools to open girls’ dorm rooms to males.


Learn more:

ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Bangert explains the College of the Ozarks lawsuit on Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch”:

Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom

ADF team members contributed to the writing and publication of this article.