Christian college advances religious freedom lawsuit against Biden administration

Campus Reform spoke with the lawyers representing the College of the Ozarks.

The Christian institution is challenging Biden's administration over its "gender inclusion" policies.

Attorneys representing a Christian college presented oral arguments Nov. 17 in its religious freedom lawsuit against the Biden administration over the administration’s “gender inclusion” policies.

As Campus Reform previously reported, the College of the Ozarks, a private Christian college in Missouri, filed a lawsuit against the administration on April 15 in opposition to an executive order that was signed on President Joe Biden’s first day in office. 

The “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” proclaims that “children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

According to the school’s press release, “the lawsuit challenges a directive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which forces religious schools to violate their beliefs by opening their dormitories, including dorm rooms and shared shower spaces, to members of the opposite sex. The directive accomplishes this by requiring entities covered by the Fair Housing Act to not ‘discriminate’ based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The press release continues by saying “College of the Ozarks holds to the Christian belief that 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.”

[RELATED: Biden’s DOJ walks back intent to ‘vigorously’ defend religious school exemptions in anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws]

On May 19, a federal judge sided against the college, stating that it must follow Biden’s executive order. The school filed an appeal, and on July 21a federal judge agreed to expedite arguments in a lawsuit against the Biden administration by the College of the Ozarks. 

Then, last month, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents the college, presented oral arguments to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in Kansas City, Missouri. 

ADF is “an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.”

In an interview with Campus Reform, lead attorney for the case and ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman said the College of the Ozarks “needs to be free to follow its religious tradition, and its biblical views on men and women and Christian education.”

“The Biden administration is engaged in rampant and repeated violations of their legal authority in order to advance an agenda that harms women, harms the value of life and threatens religious liberty,” Bowman said. “Religious colleges should be free to follow their traditions of Christian education, and the American people should not be subjected to the whims of federal bureaucrats as they issue mandates without regard to religious liberty.”

Bowman also said he hopes the court’s ruling, should it side with the College of the Ozarks, “will protect religious colleges across the country.”

[RELATED: UPDATE: Federal court scraps law excluding religious students from Vermont voucher program]

This lawsuit comes as a larger national conversation is taking place on “gender inclusion” policies on college campuses, specifically in housing and shared bathroom spaces. 

For example, the University of North Dakota is considering a policy change that would allow housing to be determined by “gender identity.” Bowman said policies like this one as well as the executive order from the Biden administration put women in danger. 

“Federal civil rights laws are designed to protect women not to redefine what it means to be male and female...and certainly not to allow federal bureaucrats to impose mandates on religious organizations,” Bowman said. 

He said the court “took the arguments under advisement” on November 17, which means the court will consider their argument and the government’s contrary arguments. Then, Bowman said the court will write up its decision and issue it when ready.

Bowman said he does not have an estimate as to when the decision will be released by the court, but stated that it would be posted on the circuit’s website when ready.  

College of the Ozarks referred Campus Reform back to ADF when asked for comment. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @opheliejacobson