Legal /

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Christian College's Challenge to Gender Identity-Based Dorm Housing Rule

'Religious freedom is under attack in America, and we won’t stand on the sidelines and watch,' said College of the Ozarks President

College of the Ozarks will not have a chance to argue against a federal mandate requiring the school to house students based on gender identity rather than biological sex.

The United States Supreme Court declined to take up the case and will allow a lower court’s ruling against the school to remain in place.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office requiring all federal agencies to include gender identity in any interpretation of anti-discrimination regulations.

“It is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” Biden said in the Jan. 20, 2021 order. “It is also the policy of my Administration to address overlapping forms of discrimination.”

Accordingly, the Department of Housing and Urban Development updated its interpretation of the Fair Housing Act in February 2021. HUD included a directive prohibiting housing discrimination based on gender identity. 

Because the Fair Housing Act extends to dormitories or student housing, colleges and universities are required to house individuals based on their expressed gender identity and not their biological sex to be in compliance with HUD’s regulation. Schools that do not comply can be fined or face other punitive damages. 

College of the Ozarks is a co-ed Christian institution in Missouri that aims to “develop citizens of Christlike character who are well-educated, hard-working, and patriotic.” In accordance with its religious affiliation, the school houses men and women in separate dormitories. Moreover, the college’s theology states biological sex is not a changeable characteristic.

The college filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in April 2021, arguing the HUD directive violated the school’s religious beliefs.

“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 Julie Marie Blake, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom which assisted College of the Ozarks with its lawsuit, in a statement. “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,” said Blake.

“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 at the time. “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.”

In July 2022, a three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled the Biden administration had not violated the college’s freedom of religion and dismissed the lawsuit.

The College of the Ozarks and ADF appealed to the Supreme Court in March 2023, asking the high court to reinstate the case and to “reaffirm the right, recognized by other appeals courts, to challenge the federal government in court when it mandates citizens’ behavior and refuses to allow the public to comment on that mandate in advance.” 

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