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A recent lawsuit filed against the Biden Administration by a small Christian college in Missouri reveals the drastic measures faith-based institutions must now employ in order to protect their constitutional rights, not to mention their religious identities and characters.  The outcome of the litigation could have significant ramifications for LCMS-affiliated institutions. 

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order directing all federal agencies to prioritize enforcement against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Although the Supreme Court only recently established these newfound constitutional rights, the Biden Administration wasted no time ensuring they would become enshrined in federal policy.    

Less than one month after the executive order, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it would immediately begin enforcing the new prohibition against discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.  HUD interpreted the executive order such that any entity that receives federal funding through the Fair Housing Assistance Program must now comply with the Biden Administration’s new policy. 

While all of this sounds rather unremarkable and par-for-the-course for a government bureaucracy, the reach and authority claimed under the dubious banner of “non-discrimination” is breathtaking.  There are literally tens of thousands of federal, state, and local entities that receive HUD funds.  Every single one of those is now subject to HUD’s growing tentacles. 

Rest assured the Biden Administration either did not consider, or simply dismissed, the collateral consequences of its edict.  Neither the executive order nor the HUD announcement provide any assurances that faith-based entities may seek an exemption if the new policy substantially burdens their religious beliefs.      

Many of America’s faith-based colleges and universities receive federal funding.  Many of those same institutions maintain dormitories and other forms of housing for their students.  And while mixed-gender dormitories may have first appeared decades ago, they are still relatively rare on faith-based college campuses.  It should come as no surprise then, that many faith-based institutions—including the Concordia University System—hold fast to millennia-old beliefs about human sexuality.  As a result, those institutions choose to provide separate housing and other “intimate” facilities such as restrooms, showers, and changing rooms. 

One such institution is the College of the Ozarks (the College), located in Point Lookout, Missouri.  On April 15, 2021, the College filed a federal lawsuit against the Biden Administration arguing that the new policy violates its religious freedom by requiring it to place biological males into female-only dormitories and assigning the males as “roommates.”  Further, the new policy would also require the College to allow those biological males to share intimate facilities with females.  The College’s failure to comply could expose it to significant financial penalties.

Similarly, the Concordia University System, which comprises eight campuses spanning the nation, could find itself subject to HUD’s long tentacles.  All that is required is for one biological male who is denied access to a female shower to complain, and HUD is empowered to investigate whether the denial constitutes discrimination, regardless of Concordia’s Christian mission statement and its policies. 

Faithful Lutherans—indeed, all Americans of faith—must pay special attention to the College of the Ozarks’ lawsuit and the Biden Administration’s arguments.  This case will almost certainly serve as an important marker in the ongoing battle for religious freedom.

Mike Berry is general counsel at First Liberty Institute.  First Liberty Institute is the nation’s largest legal organization dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans, and it has had the privilege of working closely with the LCMS on religious liberty matters on numerous occasions.

 

 

Be Informed

In the current casting down of monuments and former heroes, one historic figure who deserves to be cast down has been largely overlooked:  Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, whose crusade for birth control was motivated by her racist beliefs. Learn more from Dr. Gene Edward Veith.

 

Be Equipped

Discover a solid defense of religious freedom with Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on a recent Issues, Etc. podcast.

 

Be Encouraged

“Americans should not give up on their ideals and institutions. Those very ideals—such as freedom, equality and inalienable rights—make it possible to reform those institutions when they fall short. Christians should also realize that even in our current year of troubles, God still reigns. Ultimately, despite sin and its consequences, despite trials and tribulations, He has everything under control.” – Dr. Gene Edward Veith

Help support our efforts to contend for the freedom to proclaim the faith. Click here to learn more or to donate.

 

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