Point Lookout, Mo.
College of the Ozarks faces an existential threat, as a federal court will hear on Wednesday. The Biden administration has declared that we must start letting men into our young women’s dorm rooms, showers and locker rooms—or else face the wrath of the federal government.
The Biden administration issued a February memo under the Fair Housing Act, declaring it will “eradicate housing discrimination.” If we don’t cease what it calls “gender identity” discrimination, the federal government will punish our 115-year-old institution via laws that were written to stamp out racism.
College campuses have certainly been superspreaders for the sexual revolution, and since then some campuses implemented coed dorms. But until now no one has forced private colleges to reject the wisdom of having separate dorms for men and women, half of whom are teenagers. Nor has the government compelled colleges to deny the basic biological reality that there are two sexes.
College of the Ozarks has a singular purpose—to provide a top-notch Christian education for students who cannot afford to attend college elsewhere. Our religious beliefs define who we are. Our students know these beliefs, most share them, and all commit to respect them when they join our community. We don’t enforce our principles with the edge of a sword; but, like most colleges, we establish clearly defined expectations for students, faculty and employees.
The Biden administration’s agenda presents a two-pronged threat to the First Amendment. First, it squelches our right to speak the truth that men and women are different—and that we respect their dignity and privacy by providing excellent housing to both in separate dorms. Second, it suppresses our religious right to provide affordable education to young people in an environment that lives by the truth of Genesis 1:27: “male and female he created them.”
Is the safety, comfort and privacy of women on our campus to be sacrificed so that men can live in women’s dorms? Does radical gender ideology, which defies biological science and common sense, trump the religious beliefs of College of the Ozarks that are guaranteed protection by the Constitution?
The Biden administration’s action doesn’t apply only to us. Its directive covers every college in the country that accepts students from the general public, whether or not the colleges receive federal funds. The president’s minions did this without an iota of public input: no notice, no opportunity to submit comments, and thus no responses to objections.
So, in April we asked the federal courts for protection. A judge denied our request for help in May, telling us that before we can sue we must suffer years of agency complaints and intrusive investigations. As the legal saying goes, the process is part of the punishment.
We appealed. Multiple groups, including a coalition of 14 state attorneys general, filed briefs in our favor, explaining this case is about the administrative state run amok—with religious liberty left in the rubble. The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is holding an expedited hearing for us on Nov. 17.
In my 44 years as a college president, I have learned that sometimes we must adapt to changes and sometimes we must stand firm. This is a time to stand firm. The U.S. is at a political and spiritual crossroads. Will our country allow the whims of elite opinion to impose a novel redefinition of humanity on ordinary Americans? Or will we stand up for the fundamentals of freedom that were endowed by our Creator and guaranteed by the Constitution?
Typically at a college, the dean of students manages student life. The character of a college is determined by its trustees, who are bound to maintain its mission. Can you imagine what would happen if a dean revoked these policies without consent, without notice, without input, without authority? That’s what the Biden administration is trying to do.
Mr. Davis is president of College of the Ozarks.
Read the original on The Wall Street Journal.