Christian Education

Federal ‘overbreadth’ threatens freedom in Christian colleges


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JEFFERSON CITY – University presidents of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) expressed disappointment after a federal judge rejected the College of the Ozark (COO) request to pause on a federal directive that could force Christian universities to respond to the LGBT agenda.

Federal Judge Roseann Ketchmark, in the Western Missouri District, denied the COO’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on May 19, although she did not dismissed the complaint or ruled in favor of the federal directive. Had Ketchmark approved the injunction, he would have halted enforcement of the federal directive while the trial progresses.

“The lawsuit will go to trial, unless the judge decides the college cannot prosecute until a specific complaint is filed against them by a student or the government,” the Kansas City attorney said. Michael Whitehead, Fellowship Church Fellow, Greenwood. The way. “The COO was looking for a ‘pre-execution remedy’ that said, ‘we don’t want to wait to be sued – we need legal clarity now.’ So… there will be further litigation to follow in this matter.

A Christian school located south of Branson, COO is not affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). However, like the COO, the three universities of the MBC have no desire to assert an unbiblical view of sexuality and marriage.

Missouri Baptist University (MBU) President Keith Ross said The way he was “certainly disappointed” with the judge’s decision to deny the COO’s request. He called the federal directive “an overstepping on the part of the current administration and a violation of our deeply held religious beliefs as a Christian university.” He added, “We will continue to closely follow this executive order while continuing our Christ-centered mission.”

Anthony Allen, president of Hannibal-LaGrange University, said The way, “Under the current administration, we have returned to a very aggressive attack on religious freedoms. We will continue to fight to preserve our values ​​and the principles of our faith. “

Brad Johnson, interim president of Southwest Baptist University (SBU), also stressed the need for vigilance among Christian universities due to these legal challenges.

“As a Christian liberal arts university, we are constantly monitoring rule changes, legislation and lawsuits that could impact our ability to maintain our Christ-centered identity and mission, ”Johnson said. “We continue to follow this development very closely because it is disturbing whenever a decision threatens the values ​​we hold dear.

“Some of the most important challenges we face in Christian higher education come from cultural, legal and governmental arenas,” he added. “Procedures like this can have an impact on student accommodation and have a huge impact on campus culture and student financial aid. Today more than ever, the world needs the service and ministry of a Christ-centered, Bible-based higher education experience like that of Southwest Baptist University and our sister institutions, MBU and HLGU. . Our graduates serve as “salt and light” in a world in desperate need of the love of Jesus Christ. “

What motivated the COO trial?

COO’s lawsuit challenges a US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) directive that requires religious schools to violate their beliefs by opening up their dorms, including dorms and shared shower spaces, to members of the opposite sex. The directive accomplishes this by requiring entities covered by the Fair Housing Act not to “discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The government cannot force schools to open girls’ dormitories to men or vice versa,” said Julie Marie Blake, senior advisor to ADF. “President Biden punishes religious schools, organizations and churches simply for their beliefs about marriage and biological sex. Religious schools like the College of the Ozarks are free to follow the religious tradition they represent. That is why we are asking the court to stop the application of this unconstitutional directive while our legal action continues.

Administration rule change forces religious schools to violate their beliefs by opening female dormitories for biological men and male dormitories for biological women, or face fines of up to six figures, punitive damages and legal fees. HUD’s reinterpretation of “sex” in Fair Housing Act comes in light of President Biden’s executive order titled “Preventing and Addressing Discrimination Based on Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” signed in January 2021 .

The lawsuit opposes the HUD directive and the decree requiring it. The ordinance, issued to all federal agencies, requires them to change their policies on gender discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The lawsuit explains that the HUD directive contradicts the historic judicial interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, which confirms that “sex” means biological sex. The lawsuit also argues that the directive goes beyond the authority of the administration and violates the constitutionally protected freedom of the College of the Ozark and similar religious institutions to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Whitehead said The way that Christian universities are not protected from the HUD directive by religious exemptions granted under Title IX. “The directive applies to the Fair Housing Act, which applies to college housing, regardless of a college’s religious exemption under Title IX,” he said.

(This article includes reports from the Defending Freedom Alliance.)

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