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Christian Universities Score Major Win for Religious Freedom After Dem AG Refuses to Enforce Law

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Becket Law announced Wednesday that Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison temporarily agreed not to bar religious universities requiring a statement of faith from the state’s tuition program.

Becket filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Education, Commissioner Willie Jett and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in May on behalf of parents, Mark and Melinda Loe, and two colleges after the state changed its Postsecondary Enrollment Options program, prohibiting state funding to be used to attend universities requiring a statement of faith. Several weeks later, Ellison agreed to a preliminary injunction that would allow religious students to use the funding for the college of their choice while the lawsuit goes through the courts, according to the press release.

“We are glad that Minnesota has agreed not to punish our children and many students like them for wanting to learn at schools that reflect their values,” the Loes said in the press release. “They should be able to pursue the same great opportunities as all other students in the state without politicians in St. Paul getting in the way. We hope the court will eventually strike this law down for good and protect all religious students and the schools they want to attend.”

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Minnesota’s PSEO program allows 10th- through 12th-grade students to “earn college credit tuition free while still in high school, through enrollment in and successful completion of college courses” on a full or part-time basis, according to the state DOE’s website. In May 2023, Walz passed a $72 billion budget with a provision that amended the program to reject students who were looking to attend a college that required a statement of faith or based its admission process on a “student’s race, creed, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation or religious beliefs or affiliations.”

Becket filed the lawsuit a day later, arguing that the new rule was discriminatory and had been addressed in the Supreme Court decision in Carson v Makin in 2022 when the justices ruled that Maine’s law was a violation of the First Amendment. The law firm also filed a similar lawsuit in Maine on Wednesday after the state changed its Human Rights Act to keep religious elementary and high schools from accessing state funding.

Diana Thomson, senior counsel at Becket, said in the press release that the state was attempting to “walk back” its “anti-religious law.”

“It’s not every day that a state asks a federal court to tie its hands to prevent it from enforcing its own anti-religious law—but Minnesota has done just that,” Thomson said. “As this effort to walk back demonstrates, the state didn’t do its homework before it passed this unconstitutional law. The next step is for the court to strike down this ban for good.”

Walz, Becket and the DOE did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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