Christian College Takes Biden to Court Over Trans Mandate

School says dorm order violates religious beliefs

April 16, 2021

A Christian college is taking the Biden administration to court over a directive mandating the college to end its single-sex dorms and bathrooms.

A Biden executive order signed in January requires colleges to open up single-sex facilities to members of the opposite sex depending on the person's gender identity. The College of the Ozarks—a Missouri Christian college with an enrollment just over 1,400—alleges that this requirement violates its religious right to practice and enforce its beliefs about sexuality.

"By promulgating a Directive imposing liability on colleges with religious objections to sex before marriage or to transgender theory, Defendants have targeted the College’s religious beliefs and practices and shown hostility toward them," the lawsuit, filed Thursday, states. "The Directive, and Defendants’ enforcement of it, imposes impermissible burdens on the exercise of religion in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

Republican-controlled states are taking more aggressive action to push back on federal directives that mandate participation rules on issues like bathroom use or youth sports be based on gender identity rather than biological sex. The Arkansas state legislature overrode the governor's veto to outlaw gender reassignment surgery, and the Texas Senate passed a bill banning transgender youth from participating on sports teams that do not correspond to their biological sex. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem (R.) also issued an executive order banning transgender individuals from participating in female sports.

The Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly signaled their support for transgender causes. In addition to issuing the directive, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development touted as protecting LGBT individuals under the Fair Housing Act, Biden issued the first presidential proclamation recognizing the Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.

College of the Ozarks president Dr. Jerry C. Davis said that the case is another example of attacks on religious freedom from progressive politicians.

"Religious freedom is under attack in America, and we won’t stand on the sidelines and watch," Davis said. "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."

The directive cites the Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton County that expanded discrimination protections to include gender identity. The lawsuit raises questions over the rights of religious institutions to maintain their traditional beliefs in the face of political and legal pressure.

"A lot of schools like the College of the Ozarks have historically separated their dormitories based on sex," said Ryan Bangert, senior counsel and vice president of legal strategy for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the college. Bangert said the college has a code of conduct that requires students to conduct themselves in ways that comport with biblical teachings about sex. Part of the way the school maintains that tradition is sex-separated dorms.

"No one denies the need to treat every person with dignity," Bangert said. "What we're talking about is the government forcing religious institutions to violate their religious beliefs under threat of government sanction.... This is not a singular event. This is part of an agenda."

The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment.