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College of the Ozarks v. Biden

Description:  A directive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 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.

College of the Ozarks entrance
Friday, Mar 31, 2023

WASHINGTON – Nineteen states, multiple Christian colleges, and numerous advocacy groups have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to take the case of a Missouri Christian college required by the Biden administration to open its dormitories, including dorm rooms and shared shower spaces, to members of the opposite sex or face fines of up to six figures, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing College of the Ozarks asked the high court to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that concluded the Christian college cannot sue the Biden administration for seeking to force the school to violate its religious beliefs.

“College of the Ozarks should be free to follow the religious tradition on which it was founded and young women should not be forced to share private spaces with men. The government can’t strip a faith-based institution of its constitutionally protected freedoms because it disagrees with its views about marriage and sexuality,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “Nineteen states, Christian colleges, and organizations have rallied in support of College of the Ozarks’ ability to bring a legal challenge to protect its freedom to operate its school according to its religious beliefs. We hope the Supreme Court will take this case to allow religious institutions to challenge this inappropriate order so they can respect the privacy, dignity, and safety of their students.”

The lawsuit, College of the Ozarks v. Biden, challenges a U.S. Housing and Urban Development directive and the executive order requiring it. The order, issued to all federal agencies, requires them to redefine sex discrimination in all federal statutes to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The lawsuit explains that the HUD directive contradicts the clear wording, meaning, and historical interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, which confirms that “sex” means biological sex. The lower courts ruled that College of the Ozarks cannot challenge the order in court, but the college’s petition asks the Supreme Court 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.

A brief led by the state of Missouri and joined by 18 other states explains that, “this case involves an expansion of federal power and the federal government’s outright failure to address, let alone balance, antidiscrimination policy and interests with religious beliefs. The Amici States enforce antidiscrimination statutes while at the same time ‘ensur[ing] that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.’”

“The government directive here compels College of the Ozarks to change its dorm policies and violate its sincerely held religious conscience. In doing so, it directly threatens, indeed destroys, [the college’s] ability to preserve its identity as a Christian college. By its very design, the right to notice and comment protects against this threatened interest of the college. The government’s depriving [the college] of its procedural right to notice and comment, therefore, constitutes an injury in fact sufficient for standing,” the Association of Christian Schools and Wagner Faith & Freedom Center wrote in its brief.

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

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Legal Documents

Amicus briefs filed in support of granting certiorari: See briefs filed 3/28/2023 to 3/30/2023

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ABOUT John Bursch

John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.