College of the Ozarks is suing President Joe Biden, claiming his executive order against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity violates the rights of the faith-based college.
The conservative Christian college, located near Branson, filed the lawsuit Thursday in the Western District of Missouri, asking a judge to set aside the order under the Administrative Procedure Act.
Biden’s executive order, signed Jan. 20, states that “all persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.” Any entity that violates the order faces financial penalties.
The suit states the federal agency’s directive “requires private religious colleges to place biological males into female dormitories and to assign them as females’ roommates.”
The college said it has long assigned dormitories and separated “intimate spaces” such as showers and bathrooms based on “biological sex.”
According to the suit, the change bans the college from continuing that practice, setting policy in accordance with that practice or even “telling students that they only qualify for access to dormitory and dormitory room placements based on their biological sex.”
The college is seeking a temporary restraining order, as the case makes its way through the courts, because it is involved in planning for the fall semester and communicating its housing set-up to incoming and existing students.
The suit alleges that the directive signed by Biden violated the rights of the college, protected under the First Amendment, to tell students about its religiously-informed residence hall policies.
The suit stated: “Occupancy and access in the college’s residence halls are separated by biological sex, not gender identity, and that residence in student housing depends on compliance with the student code of conduct, including the commitment to avoid all sexual relations outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.”
In the suit, the college explains it was founded in 1906 to provide the “advantages of a Christian education for youth of both sexes, especially for those found worthy, but who are without sufficient means to procure such training” and still follows that mission.
All unmarried freshmen students are required to live on campus for their freshman year. They can apply to move off campus, starting sophomore year, if their parents live within 40 miles and they have a financial need, or they are married.
The college’s room and board cost $7,900 a year. The students who work on campus can graduate debt-free.
Each year, faculty must sign a contract agreeing to comply with the college’s drug-free workplace policy, the handbook, and “employee commitments” summarizing faith and practice, biblical references in support of college polices, and the college’s lifestyle and sexuality policy.
In the suit, the college explained it teaches that all people should be treated with dignity, grace and love “whatever their sexual beliefs.”
The college teaches sexuality is a gift from God and for the purpose of procreating and strengthening the marital bond. It also teaches, according to the suit, that an individual’s “sex as determined at birth is a person’s God-given, objective gender, whether or not it differs from their internal sense of ‘gender identity.'”
According to the suit, the college will discipline employees or students for the following violations of the conduct code:
- Gender expression inconsistent with sex determined at birth;
- Gender transition;
- Sexual relations with a person other than his/her spouse;
- Sexual relations with a person of the same sex;
- Touching, caressing, and other physical conduct of a sexual nature with a person of the same sex; and
- Touching, caressing, and other physical conduct of a sexual nature with a person of the opposite sex that is inappropriate to the time and place in which it occurs.
The college will allow students to apply and enroll even if they “experience or have experienced same-sex attractions or have experienced feelings or taken actions contrary to their biological sex” as long as they follow the rules.
The lawsuit names Biden, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and two officials with that department, Marcia Fudge and Jeanine Worden. The college demands a jury trial.
The college is seeking costs and attorney fees under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Equal Access to Justice Act.