College of the Ozarks alleges its rights to freedom of speech and religion are under attack.
A conservative Christian private college is suing the Biden administration over federal orders that it says violate its constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and free speech.
College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, is suing over a memorandum from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity announced in February, directing its regional offices, Fair Housing Assistance Program agencies, and Fair Housing Initiatives Program grantees to review allegations of discrimination against LGBTQ people received since President Joe Biden's first day in office.
The college claims that it will be forced to house transgender girls and women, whom the complaint calls "biological males," with cisgender girls and women in violation of its constitutional rights.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing legal advocacy and training group designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, submitted the complaint on behalf of the college.
HUD issued the document following an executive order issued by Biden on Jan. 20 that directed agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County "that Title VII's prohibition on discrimination 'because of . . . sex' covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation."
LGBTQ rights experts say that this has broader implications for LGBTQ rights in housing, education, and more.
In addition to protecting people against discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, familial status, and disability when they seek a mortgage or rental assistance or buy a home, the Fair Housing Act includes prohibitions on discrimination in housing at colleges and universities.
College of the Ozarks wants a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the policy under the Administrative Procedures Act, a law that regulates government rule-making. It filed the lawsuit on April 15.
The complaint says that the school teaches "that 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,' and it bases this teaching on such Biblical passages as Genesis 1:27, Leviticus 18:22, Matthew 19:4, Romans 1:26–27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9–10."
According to its code of conduct, "The College understands that misuses of God's gift of human sexuality, and therefore violations of its code of conduct, include, but are not limited to, gender expression inconsistent with sex determined at birth (transgender expression), gender transition, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, heterosexual misconduct, homosexual conduct, or possession of pornographic materials."
The college says that its free speech, which it defines to include its student housing policies, is being restricted and that it is being prevented from expressing its "religiously-based understanding of the nature of the human person and the characteristics of marriage and the family."
Evangelical leader Franklin Graham tweeted in response to the suit, "Can you believe this government overreach?" Graham has engaged in fear-mongering over LGBTQ equality and claimed before the 2020 presidential election that opponents of LGBTQ rights could be jailed over their beliefs under a Biden administration.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which Graham runs, ran Facebook ads against the Equality Act, a federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill, that linked to information that inaccurately claimed it would threaten Christian religious life.
The Alliance Defending Freedom's website writers and its legal counsel have made many anti-LGBTQ comments over the years. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Marissa Mayer, a senior web writer, wrote in 2019, "Men who self-identify as women are still biological men."
The group is listed as a leading national partner on the website Promise to America's Children, a coalition that is involved in the recent push to pass state legislation aimed at keeping transgender children off of the sports teams of their gender and banning gender-affirming care for these youth.
The group's general counsel, Kristen Waggoner, advocated for South Dakota's Republican Gov. Kristi Noem to support anti-trans sports legislation introduced in the state Legislature and called her opposition to the bill "political theater." Noem did not sign the bill but issued executive orders to accomplish the same goal.
The Biden administration has taken numerous steps to advance LGBTQ equality, including the executive order on Bostock; vocal support for the Equality Act; and its history-making nomination of Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, to be assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human services and appointment of Reggie Greer as a senior adviser on LGBTQ issues in the White House.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.