On Wednesday, a federal judge denied a Christian college's request to block enforcement of a new Biden administration rule that the school says will force it to open dorms and showers to students who identify as the opposite sex.
At issue is a new directive by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in entities covered by the Fair Housing Act. That includes College of the Ozarks, a Christian school located in Springfield, Mo., which sued the Biden administration in April and sought an injunction blocking the rule. The directive was issued in accordance with an LGBT-themed executive order by President Biden.
But on Wednesday, Judge Roseann Ketchmark denied the request for an injunction after hearing arguments from the college and the administration. She was nominated by President Obama.
"After careful consideration of the law … the court denies the plaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order and injunction," she said from the bench, according to The Washington Times.
In his executive order, signed Jan. 20, Biden said, "It is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation."
Many Christian groups say the executive order could have a devastating impact on religious freedom.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing the College of the Ozarks.
"The government can't force schools to open girls' dorm rooms to males or vice-versa," ADF senior counsel Julie Marie Blake said prior to the hearing. "President Biden is punishing religious schools, organizations, and churches simply because of their beliefs about marriage and biological sex. Religious schools like the College of the Ozarks are free to follow the religious tradition they represent."
HUD attorney Serena Orloff defended the directive.
"It would be particularly unfair to cut off an avenue of redress for a hypothetical student before he or she had even had the opportunity to make the complaint to HUD and HUD had the ability to investigate," Orloff said, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
The HUD directive, according to the college's lawsuit, requires the school to let biological males who identify as female to:
- live in residence halls reserved for biological females.
- be placed as roommates of biological females.
- use single-sex communal shower rooms reserved for biological females.
The directive, the lawsuit says, has an "adverse effect" on the rights of the college's students and employees, including "their privacy, religious, liberty, educational, professional, associational, and recreational interests."
Photo courtesy: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.