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Student Christian group earns right to pick its leaders in legal settlement with university

Legal battle between Ratio Christi and CU Colorado Springs concludes

On Monday, the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs settled a lawsuit brought by a student Christian apologetics group alleging its religious freedom had been violated when the university tried to dictate the makeup of the group’s leaders.

In November, Ratio Christi sued the public university, alleging its officials refused to formally recognize the group as a campus organization based on its top members’ “expression and religious beliefs.”

Ratio Christi is “a global movement that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ,” according to its website.

Beginning in 2016, Ratio Christi was denied formal recognition by the university due to the group’s requirement that its leaders must “share and personally hold Christian beliefs.”

According to the settlement, Ratio Christi will receive registered status on campus and University of Colorado, Colorado Springs will pay the group over $20,500 in attorneys’ fees and damages, attorneys for the group announced Tuesday.

Further, the university has agreed to update its policies to ensure that a student club may “require its leadership to promote the purposes of the club and hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission.”

“We commend the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs for quickly implementing this common sense policy reform,” said Alliance for Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Travis Barham, who filed the lawsuit on Ratio Christi’s behalf.

“It would be absurd for the university to require the vegan student group to appoint a meat-lover as its president,” Barham said in a written statement. “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.”

A University of Colorado, Colorado Springs spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request Tuesday by The College Fix for comment on the settlement.

The university’s denial of registered status prevented Ratio Christi from enjoying a number of privileges granted to official campus groups, including the ability to access student fees, campus meeting spaces and administrative support. Officially recognized groups are also able to use the university’s logo on promotional materials and use the university’s tax-exempt ID number to claim tax-exempt status.

In settling, campus leaders may have seen the writing on the wall.

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.”

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.

At UCCS, each student pays $14 per semester in mandatory student activity fees, which are then distributed to registered organizations on campus. The University of Colorado system features 270 recognized student organizations, including the College Democrats, the Young Democratic Socialists of America, and “Be Fair Be Vegan,” all groups that run politically opposite of Ratio Christi.

In a statement, Dr. Corey Miller, president of the national Ratio Christi organization, said the university “has restored a degree of campus viewpoint diversity by updating its student group policy,” further encouraging Christian students and educators “to continue sharing a thoughtful Christianity with anyone who is curious.”

MORE: Public university forces Christian students to give up constitutional rights to get recognition: lawsuit

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About the Author
Senior Reporter
Christian focuses on investigative, enterprise and analysis reporting. He is the author of "1916: The Blog" and has spent time as a political columnist at USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and National Review Online. His op-eds have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, City Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He has also been a frequent guest on political television and radio shows. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Marquette University and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.