A small Christian college in America’s heartland is fighting a legal battle with far-reaching implications.
At stake is the school’s ability — any school’s ability — to restrict spaces such as dormitories and showers to only women.
What was once unthinkable for a Christian college became an all-too-real problem the day Joe Biden was sworn in as president.
In one of his first official acts in the Oval Office, Biden signed an executive order that redefined the terms “sex,” “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
Three weeks later, Biden’s Department of Housing and Urban Development issued new rules requiring schools to open their women’s dormitories — showers and all — to men who “identify” as women.
No exemptions were allowed, even for religious institutions.
But the College of the Ozarks said no.
The Christian college, located in Point Lookout, Missouri, filed a lawsuit against Biden and his administration, arguing that the historical interpretation of the Fair Housing Act confirms that “sex” means biological sex.
The college also argued that not only does the Biden executive order violate the school’s constitutional right to “operate consistently with their religious beliefs,” but also that there should have been a public notice and comment period before such a drastic change was made.
In September, a three-judge panel from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case and denied a petition for the matter to be heard by the full court.
College of the Ozarks and its law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom, responded in February by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
“Young women shouldn’t be forced to have to change or undress in the presence of men,” ADF senior counsel Julie Marie Blake told The Western Journal on Friday in an online interview. “Young women should not be forced to have men as roommates.”
“We’re hoping that the Supreme Court realizes that there’s a lot of really important issues here about government overreach and women’s privacy and religious freedom,” she said.
If they lose the case, she said, the college — and any others holding the same convictions — could face six-figure fines, punitive damages and even criminal liability for school officials who refuse to bow to the Biden administration’s edict.
“All of those sanctions are on the table, and jail time’s even a possibility,” Blake said.
Recognizing the high stakes involved in the case, a number of other Christian colleges have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the suit brought by the College of the Ozarks. Nineteen states and numerous advocacy groups have done likewise.
Esther Rea, a senior at the college majoring in public relations, said she finds the prospect of having to share dorm facilities with males “extremely scary.”
“It’s not a thought that I really want to have, actually,” she told The Western Journal.
“Where I live now … I know it’s safe,” Rea said. “I have a lot of comfort in knowing where I live right now, I don’t have to share that space with men.”
Rea said she believes most of the school’s 1,600 students are aware of and in support of the school’s ongoing legal fight over the issue.
“It spurred a lot of good conversations on campus among the students,” she said. “Just how we are all fully in support of what the college is doing and really grateful for the stand that they’re taking.”
The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear the case in late June.
“All of this government overreach has got to be stopped,” Blake said. “And that’s why College of the Ozarks is standing up in court.”
“The bottom line is, the government does not belong in girls’ dorms.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.