The University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) will make policy changes to settle a lawsuit filed last November by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys on behalf of a student group on campus that was refused registration status due to their Christian beliefs.
Ratio Christi, which means “reason of Christ,” is a Christian apologetics organization on campuses nationwide that seeks to defend the Christian faith and explain how the Bible applies to cultural, ethical and political issues. Students of any faith can become members of the group, but Ratio Christi requires that those in leadership share and personally hold the organization’s religious beliefs.
Due to this requirement, UCCS denied the group’s registration status, which resulted in limited funding, meeting and event space and administrative support.
“University policies that prohibit organizations from requiring their leaders to hold the beliefs and mission of the organization not only undermine the First Amendment, but fly in the face of common sense,” Rena Lindevaldsen, professor of law at Liberty University School of Law, said. “Elections in America are all about selecting leaders that share your values—from student class representatives all the way up to the president of the United States. In the same way we would not require the Black Student Association to permit a white supremacist to be its president, we should not require a Christian organization to permit leaders who do not share the basic tenets of the faith or mission of the organization.”
The lawsuit challenged the university’s policy allowing officials to deny registered status to groups that exclude leaders based on the group’s core beliefs.
“We commend the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs for quickly implementing this common-sense policy reform,” ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham said in a press release. “Thankfully, the university quickly fixed its policy by adding provisions that respect 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.”
As part of the settlement, UCCS agreed to grant Ratio Christi registered status, pay over $20,500 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and update its policies to allow student organizations to select leaders that hold the group’s beliefs.
“The First Amendment protects the diverse marketplace of ideas, including beliefs that some might consider unpopular or even wrong,” Lindevaldsen added. “As we witness the growing hostility toward Christian principles, we must be vigilant to protect the rights of all people to express their opinion—we cannot permit governmental entities to serve as the arbiter of what is permissible in a ‘tolerant society.’”