Last week, College of the Ozarks sued President Biden. While we did not do so lightly, the Biden administration’s radical and unilateral actions to violate women’s privacy and religious liberty — with little concern for the text of our laws — left us with no choice.
College of the Ozarks, referred to as “Hard Work U” by economist Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal, is unique among institutions of higher education in America. At our college, no student pays tuition; rather, each student works on campus, religious liberty is celebrated, and all are held to high moral standards. Since its founding in 1906 by an early missionary, the college has provided financially disadvantaged students with the opportunity to work, in exchange for a distinctly Christian education.
All students participate in the work-education program to help defray the cost of education. The work-education program and donor contributions allow College of the Ozarks to operate as a no-tuition Christian college. The college also maintains a classical, Christian K–12 school, completing the K–college format of providing students an integrated Christian-learning experience.
Yet on January 20, 2021, the Biden administration began taking rapid and successive actions that threaten our long-standing Christian beliefs and that could punish religious schools, organizations, and churches simply because of their biblical view on marriage and biological sex.
Just three weeks after President Biden’s Day One executive order, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a rule change that forces religious schools to open their dormitories, including dorm rooms and showers, to members of the opposite sex. The directive claims that the 1974 amendments to the Fair Housing Act require these changes, but that law does no such thing.
We were thus forced to file our lawsuit, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), to protect our female students and the integrated Christian education we excel at providing. The lawsuit explains that the HUD directive contradicts the historical judicial interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, under which “sex” means what everyone knew it to mean then, and what most people know it means now: biological sex. The suit also points out that the Biden administration issued this bureaucratic fiat in violation of laws requiring them to seek public input first — an opportunity we would have used to underscore the drastic effect this executive action has on the religious liberty of educational institutions.
This policy, advanced by President Biden, forces College of the Ozarks to decide between defending its religious liberty from government overreach or violating our core reason for existing. Young women should not be forced to share private spaces — including showers and dorm rooms — with men, and a religious institution should not be forced to betray its religious beliefs. The government’s threats include harmful fines that could easily amount to six figures, in addition to punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Fair Housing Act violations can even put someone in jail.
College of the Ozarks is a Christian institution. Our vision statement is “to develop citizens of Christlike character who are well-educated, hardworking, and patriotic.” We take our faith commitment seriously and believe that President Biden’s actions instigate a fight with religious institutions by forcing them to oppose their religious beliefs, protected by the First Amendment.
Such a flagrant violation ought to be shocking. This is America — land of the free, isn’t it? Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel or look like freedom. Instead, a small, private Christian college nestled in America’s heartland is suddenly faced with something akin to George Orwell’s novel 1984. The Biden administration touts this as freedom for all; it’s quite the opposite and, sadly, will only further divide our great nation.
Today, this case concerns religious colleges. Tomorrow, it could be about other colleges, schools, churches, or businesses. The Constitution protects our freedom by separating power and limiting government authority. When the government overreaches, College of the Ozarks and ADF will defend freedom — especially religious freedom — and we hope you will join us.
The wolf is at the door. Unfortunately, his name is Uncle Sam, and he must be stopped.