A Christian group at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, has scored a major victory over their school, The College Fix reports — and it could have repercussions outside of that campus.
Ratio Christi, a Christian apologetics group at the school, had sued the university after they tried to lay down ground rules regarding who the group could pick as leaders.
The group couldn’t be approved as an official campus organization “because [their constitution] required that its officers be professing Christians,” College Fix had previously reported. School officials claimed this was in violation of the school’s nondiscrimination policy.
“Ratio Christi could not say that members must agree with and promote the purposes of the organization because those purposes are religious,” coordinator of student clubs Krystal Schiffelbein allegedly told the group following a meeting in February of 2017, the suit alleged.
“The Christian students are challenging student organization policies that let officials deny registered status on the basis of limiting leadership to those who advocate a group’s ‘political philosophy,’ a term the policies don’t define,” The College Fix reported last November.
“These policies also let UCCS discriminate against religious organizations such as Ratio Christi that select leaders who ‘share and will advocate for the organization’s religious beliefs,’ and members who ‘support its mission and purpose.’
“This gives administrators ‘unbridled discretion’ in whom to award mandatory student fees, which Ratio Christi members are forced to pay to groups whose values they oppose.”
Now, a settlement means that Ratio Christi will receive recognition by the university in addition to legal fees and damages totaling $20,500.
The university will also update its student club leadership policies.
UCCS spokesman Jared Verner told The Colorado Springs Gazette, “It’s basically allowing student clubs that would require club leadership to promote the purposes and beliefs of the club.”
“We commend the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs for quickly implementing this common-sense policy reform,” Alliance for Defending Freedom senior counsel Travis Barham said in a media release.
“It would be absurd for the university to require the vegan student group to appoint a meat-lover as its president,” Barham, who filed the lawsuit on the group’s behalf, said.
“Thankfully, the university has acknowledged its error and announced a policy that respects students’ rights to free association, no longer forcing Christian students to let atheists or other non-Christians to lead their Bible studies in order to become a registered club.”
This isn’t an isolated thing, unfortunately. Groups like Ratio Christi — which explicitly describes itself as “a global movement that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ” — are often forced to choose between official recognition by the school or following their principles.
There’s the third option, of course, which is a lawsuit.
“In February, a federal judge ruled that Business Leaders in Christ, a religious organization on the campus of the University of Iowa, could deny a leadership position to a gay student given the group’s belief that homosexuality is ‘outside of God’s design’ and that ‘every person should embrace, not reject, their God-given sex.'” The College Fix reported.
“University of Iowa campus leaders had argued such a rule was discriminatory, but BLiC successfully argued other groups on campus were allowed to block individuals from leadership positions based on their personal beliefs.
“In her decision, federal Judge Stephanie Rose noted, for example, that in order to gain full membership to the Muslim group, one had to be a ‘Muslim, Shiea, who respects the religion rules, and willing to practice the faith.’ Rose ruled these same standards should apply to Christian religious groups on campus.”
One assumes that the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, saw that decision and wisely read the writing on the wall. Or perhaps they realized the arrant silliness of the policy. Whatever the case, religious liberty was protected — a big win for the student group and another object lesson as to why a judiciary that respects the First Amendment is so important.
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