A federal district court judge on May 19 rejected a motion filed on behalf of the College of the Ozarks seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) against a new regulation barring schools from maintaining separate bathrooms and showers for male and female students.
Judge Roseann Ketchmark of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri heard arguments from both sides of the case for about two hours, then said from the bench that she was denying the motion and observed that it was “not justiciable.”
It wasn’t clear from Ketchmark’s announcement if she was referring simply to the TRO motion or more generally to the school’s suit. She said she would issue a written order soon. The judge didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for clarification.
In its request for the TRO, the school argued that the new regulation “interferes with the college’s speech, burdening its exercise of its moral and religious principles, and intruding upon its students’ privacy. Without emergency relief, the college must eliminate its current housing policies, cease talking to students about its policies, and stop planning for fall semester housing, all in violation of its longstanding religious beliefs, or else suffer massive fines and investigatory burdens by continuing to provide housing based on biological sex. The college thus asks this Court to enjoin the directive in order to maintain the legal status quo while this suit proceeds.”
Ketchmark was appointed to the federal bench in 2014 by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Republican-led Senate in September 2015.
“While we’re disappointed by the court’s ruling yesterday, we are confident that the College of the Ozarks will obtain the relief that it seeks as this case moves forward,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Julie Marie Blake told The Epoch Times on May 20.
The school is being represented in the litigation by ADF, which is an Arizona-based public-interest law firm that specializes in religious liberty litigation.
The firm has won 12 Supreme Court victories since 2001, including the landmark Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which affirmed that an individual couldn’t be required to provide a service or message that conflicted with his or her religious views.
“The federal government is seeking to force private religious colleges to open females’ single-sex dorm rooms and communal showers to biological males, if the male identifies as female,” Blake said.
“The Constitution guarantees that religious schools, like College of the Ozarks, are free to follow the religious tradition that inspires everything that they do. But this new policy that redefines sex in federal law, a policy pushed forward by President Biden, forces the College of the Ozarks to open its dormitories to members of the opposite sex.”
The regulation prompting the litigation was issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) following President Joe Biden’s signing on his first day in the Oval Office of an executive order directing all federal agencies to reinterpret Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in light of the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County.
That court decision held that prohibitions on sex-based discrimination must include an individual’s gender identity and sexual orientation. Based on Biden’s order, HUD officials, led by Secretary Marcia Fudge, a former Democratic congresswoman from Ohio, issued a Feb. 11 directive that bars any recipient of federal funds for any purpose from segregating bathrooms, showers, and other living quarters on the basis of gender.
The result, according to College of the Ozarks, a Point Lookout, Missouri, private Christian college established in 1906, is that the institution will be forced to violate its long-held religious beliefs and practices by opening all campus living spaces to male and female students, including dormitory bathrooms and showers.
The school is challenging both the Biden executive order and the HUD directive in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s Southern Division.
“The government cannot and should not force schools to open girls’ dorms to males based on its politically motivated and inappropriate redefinition of ‘sex,’” Blake told reporters during a digital news conference on May 19. “Women shouldn’t be forced to share private spaces—including showers and dorm rooms—with males, and religious schools shouldn’t be punished simply because of their beliefs about marriage and biological sex.
“Government overreach by the Biden administration continues to victimize women, girls, and people of faith by gutting their legal protections, and it must be stopped.”
College of the Ozarks doesn’t charge tuition but instead provides students with jobs on campus and other financial assistance that enable them to work their way to a degree.
The curriculum is “designed to develop citizens of Christ-like character, who are well-educated, hard-working, and patriotic,” according to the suit. The college has about 1,200 male and female students living in nine dormitories on the campus.
It also operates a K–12 grade school, which allows the institution to provide a comprehensive K-to-college experience, providing “the advantages of a Christian education for youth of both sexes, especially for those found worthy, but who are without sufficient means to procure such training,” according to its charter.
Congressional correspondent Mark Tapscott may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org