A Christian college asked a federal appeals court to grant its request to halt the Biden administration‘s directive to open showers, restrooms and dorms to the opposite sex, arguing that the government’s order infringes on the school’s biblical beliefs.
In a filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit last week, attorneys for the College of the Ozarks said the U.S. District Court judge was wrong in dismissing the case last month.
“It’s entirely inappropriate — as well as unconstitutional — for the government to force private religious schools to open girls’ dorm rooms to males or vice-versa,” said Julie Marie Blake, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom who is representing the college. “President Biden is punishing religious schools, organizations, and churches simply because of their beliefs about marriage and biological sex. Schools like the College of the Ozarks are free to follow the faith tradition they represent.”
The dispute sets up a new legal battle over religious liberty and gender identity.
The College of the Ozarks, a Christian school in Missouri, sued the Biden administration this year after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a directive following Mr. Biden’s executive order on combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The new directive reasoned that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in dwellings, including colleges.
The College of the Ozarks argued that the order will force schools to allow students of the opposite sex into dorms and intimate areas.
The lawsuit claims that the memorandum issued by HUD says “agencies participating in the Fair Housing Act Assistance Program must either administer a law that explicitly prohibits discrimination because of gender identity and sexual orientation or must apply its fair housing law in a manner consistent with Bostock.”
The Biden administration‘s discrimination guidance came down after the Supreme Court ruled last year that an employee could not be terminated on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the case Bostock v. Clayton County.
The ruling was 6-3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch joining the liberal wing of the court.
Lawyers for the Justice Department defended the Biden administration‘s policy at a federal court hearing last month, telling the judge that many of the arguments made by the college were rejected by the Supreme Court in the Bostock case.
James Luh, an attorney with the Justice Department, said the college should have to show there is a greater degree of harm from the anti-discrimination policy, saying the school doesn’t show sufficient injury to get into court. He added the college hasn’t cited a real complaint.
A spokesperson from the Justice Department said the government will not comment about the appeal.
The crux of the school’s argument is that the Biden administration‘s policy was issued without a period for notice and comment, which is required under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The college also claims that the Biden directive infringes on its constitutional rights.