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College of the Ozarks officials seek to keep men's and women's dorms separate.
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College of the Ozarks officials seek to keep men's and women's dorms separate.

C of O files appeal in federal gender housing case

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Nearly a month after a U.S. District Court denied College of the Ozarks’ request to stop a federal executive order affecting dorm living on campus, the schools’ attorneys are appealing the decision in a circuit court. 

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents C of O, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on June 11 to halt a Biden administration directive they claim would force the private Christian college to open its gender-specific dorms and showers to members of the opposite sex, according to a news release from the school. C of O first sought the injunction through the U.S. District Court, but a Western District of Missouri judge dismissed the case on May 19. 

“We will not let a radical executive order or agency directive strip us of our core religious values and force us to allow members of the opposite sex to infiltrate our women’s dorms and showers,” C of O President Jerry Davis said in the release.

At issue is an order signed by President Joe Biden in January, and a subsequent directive by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, designed to prevent discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation when it comes to federally funded housing, including college dorm rooms and shared shower spaces.

C of O’s initial challenge, filed in April, and its appeal say the order violates religious freedoms by forcing the school to change its campus policy that prohibits biologically male and female students from living together. 

“President Biden is punishing religious schools, organizations and churches simply because of their beliefs about marriage and biological sex,” ADF Senior Counsel Julie Marie Blake said in the release. “Schools like College of the Ozarks are free to follow the faith tradition they represent. That’s why we are asking the 8th Circuit to halt enforcement of this unconstitutional directive while our lawsuit proceeds.” 

The school’s attorneys go on to say HUD’s directive reinterprets the definition of “sex” as it pertains to the Fair Housing Act. According to the release, the suit claims the historical judicial interpretation of “sex” is a biological reference when it comes to federal housing matters under the act. 

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