Skip to main content
Card Image

ADF attorneys ask full 8th Circuit to hear case of MO college challenging Biden shower, dorm order

ADF attorneys represent College of the Ozarks

Friday, Sep 9, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing College of the Ozarks filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit Friday that asks the full court to hear the Christian college’s case against the Biden administration after a three-judge panel dismissed the college’s religious freedom concerns.

The private Christian college is challenging a directive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that forces religious schools to violate their beliefs by opening their 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. On behalf of the college, ADF attorneys had asked the court for a preliminary injunction order that would halt enforcement of the HUD directive while the lawsuit moves forward, which the 8th Circuit denied by a 2-1 vote in July.

“College of the Ozarks should be free to follow the religious tradition on which it was founded. The government can’t strip a private, faith-based institution of its constitutionally protected freedoms because it disagrees with its views about marriage and biological sex,” said ADF Senior Counsel Julie Marie Blake. “By redefining ‘sex’ in federal law to include gender identity, President Biden has grossly overreached his authority and is mandating that Christian colleges must allow boys into girls’ dorm rooms and showers, and vice versa. We hope the full court will agree to hear this case and halt the government’s inappropriate and baseless order.”

The panel majority’s decision upholds a federal agency action that “skirts the rule of law and undermines our values,” leaving College of the Ozarks “under a sword of Damocles” of threatened agency enforcement, the dissenting judge wrote in the 8th Circuit’s opinion.

“If the decision stands, the College must either violate its religious beliefs and free speech rights by housing males who identify as females in female dorms or risk intrusive federal investigations and significant enforcement penalties,” the petition for rehearing explains.

The lawsuit, College of the Ozarks v. Biden, opposes the HUD directive and the executive order requiring it. The order, issued to all federal agencies, requires them to modify their policies on sex discrimination 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 suit also argues that the agency violated procedural requirements by not allowing public notice and comment, and that the directive violates the constitutional right of College of the Ozarks and similar religious institutions to operate consistently with their religious beliefs.

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.

# # #