KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing College of the Ozarks asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that concluded the Christian College cannot sue the Biden administration for seeking to force the college to violate its religious beliefs. The appeals court refused to block a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development directive that requires the college to open its dormitories, including dorm rooms and shared shower spaces, to members of the opposite sex or face fines up to six figures, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.
“College of the Ozarks should be free to follow the religious tradition on which it was founded. The government can’t strip a private, faith-based institution of its constitutionally protected freedoms because it disagrees with its views about marriage and sexuality,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “If the 8th Circuit decision stands, College of the Ozarks could be forced to choose between violating its religious beliefs or risking intrusive federal investigations and significant enforcement penalties. 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.”
The 8th Circuit panel majority’s decision upholds a federal agency action that “skirts the rule of law and undermines our values,” leaving College of the Ozarks “under a sword of Damocles” of threatened agency enforcement, the dissenting 8th Circuit judge wrote.
“The [HUD] Directive requires the College to reverse its housing policies for 1,300 students. 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,” the petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court explains.
Further, the petition notes that, “The [HUD] Directive forces the College to choose immediately between three injuries: (1) obey the government and abandon the College’s religious policies and speech; (2) refuse the government and risk crippling investigations and penalties; or (3) cease providing student housing.”
The lawsuit, College of the Ozarks v. Biden, opposes the HUD directive and the executive order requiring it. The order, issued to all federal agencies, requires them to redefine sex discrimination in all federal statutes to include sexual orientation and gender identity. 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. The suit also 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.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
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