Parents and Schools Sue Minnesota Over New Law

Parents and Schools Sue Minnesota Over New Law

Two families have joined with the University of Northwestern-St. Paul and Crown College in a federal lawsuit over a new law that excludes some Christian schools from the state’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program.

The PSEO program, created in 1985, allows high school juniors and seniors to earn high school and college credit simultaneously, without incurring debt, by taking courses at the college or university of their choice. But an amendment signed May 24 by Gov. Tim Walz expressly bars some faith-based schools from participating in the program. The law is set to take effect July 1.

The amendment states: “An eligible institution must not​ require a faith statement from a secondary student seeking to enroll in a postsecondary​ course under this section during the application process or base any part of the admission​ decision on a student’s race, creed, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation or​ religious beliefs or affiliations.​”

The University of Northwestern and Crown College have both participated in the PSEO program for more than 20 years; in fact, in 2020, Northwestern was the largest provider of PSEO in the state. The families in the lawsuit have high-school aged children who are now being barred from the schools of their choice.

“Minnesota’s sudden change to the law hurts students, such as those in this lawsuit, who want to attend schools that uphold their religious values–schools that have attracted thousands of Minnesota high school students over the years,” states a press release from Crown College.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the families and schools in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court the same day the bill was signed. In the legal complaint, the plaintiffs point out that three times in the past six years, the U.S. Supreme Court has held “that once a state opens funding to private institutions, the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause forbids excluding participants based on their religion or their religious use of the funds.” The complaint adds, “States discriminating against religion have already struck out three times at the Supreme Court. Minnesota should not get a fourth attempt.”

Diana Thomson, senior counsel at Becket, remarked: “Minnesota politicians just slammed the door on thousands of kids in their state who want to get a head start on college, all because the schools they want to attend share their religious beliefs. That decision is not only patently anti-religious; it is also against the law. We are confident this ban will not stand for long.”

Photo of plaintiffs Mark and Melinda Loe: Courtesy of Fotofilm Studios LLC

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