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Christian club beats university’s attempt to cancel it for morality requirement

University of Houston-Clear Lake punished a Christian student group over its leadership policy

University of Houston-Clear Lake student organizations that want to have moral requirements for their leadership positions are guaranteed the right to do so thanks to a lawsuit settlement.

Alliance Defending Freedom announced the new policy after it reached a settlement with the public university. ADF first sued on behalf of Ratio Christi in October and settled recently.

University officials had revoked Ratio Christi’s Registered Student Organization status because the Christian apologetics club required officers to “profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” and “agree to live consistently with their Christian faith.”

The settlement requires UHCL to recognize the rights of student clubs to create guidelines for leaders and adds corresponding language into the student handbook. The university paid $26,200 in damages and attorneys’ fees to Ratio Christi, according to ADF.

“All students deserve to be treated fairly and without discrimination based on their faith,” ADF attorney Caleb Dalton said in a statement. “[P]ublic universities must vigilantly protect the constitutional rights of students to freely speak and gather according to their religious beliefs.”

The public university did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The media relations office said spokesperson Daniel Ramirez would respond but he did not end up providing comment. The media team did not reply to a follow-up email or return a voicemail left in the past two weeks.

No administrator has a right to select group leaders, Ratio Christi president says

The University of Houston situation is not an isolated incident, the leader of Ratio Christi’s national organization told The Fix via email.

Corey Miller told The Fix that “no university administration has the right to select leaders or their beliefs for a religious group.”

“Can you imagine universities requiring the vegetarian club to be open to a meat eater as its student officer, or a neo-Nazi for a Jewish Club, or a man (a real man, not a transgender) for a feminist club?” he said.

“Ratio Christi is a Christian organization” he said. “Our leaders must be Christian even though that is certainly not a requirement to be a member.”

MORE: Ratio Christi fights to protect Trump-era religious liberty rule

Miller told The Fix that at any given time, the group has between three and six of these cases ongoing.

“This includes cases like the one at University of Houston-Clear Lake as well as ones pertaining to speech codes, speech zones, or funding issues,” he said.

“We’re happy to provide universities with continuing education whenever it comes to this little document known as the United States Constitution,” he told The Fix. “But we’d prefer they just educate themselves and seek to treat all groups fairly.”

“Increasingly, what we see is that universities claim to be about inclusivity and diversity but the groups they choose to exclude seem to be Christian groups,” Miller said.

“And universities are most definitely not places of viewpoint diversity–the most relevant kind of diversity that should be present on a university campus whose purpose allegedly concerns the pursuit of truth,” he said.

MORE: Colorado university sued for not recognizing Ratio Christi

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About the Author
Mary-Grace Byers -- Franciscan University of Steubenville