COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A Christian student organization represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, for forcing the group to accept members and officers that don’t share the group’s beliefs. The university refused to grant Ratio Christi registered status because it only allows those who share and personally hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission to serve as its leaders.
As a Christian apologetics organization, Ratio Christi seeks to defend the Christian faith and explain how the Bible applies to various current cultural, ethical, and political issues. Any student can attend its events. Any student of any faith can become a member of Ratio Christi, as long as he supports the group’s purpose. But Ratio Christi requires that those who lead the Christian organization must share its religious beliefs. As a result, the university has denied it registered status, limiting its access to funding, meeting and event space, and administrative support.
“Like any other student group at a public university, religious student organizations should be free to choose their leaders without the government meddling,” said ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham. “It would be absurd for the university to require the vegan student group to appoint a meat-lover as its president. Likewise, the University of Colorado shouldn’t force Christian students to let atheists or other non-Christians to lead their Bible studies in order to become a registered club.”
The lawsuit, Ratio Christi at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs v. Sharkey, challenges the university’s policy which allows university officials to deny registered status to a group because the organization selects leaders that share and will advocate for the organization’s religious or political philosophy. These policies also prevent religious groups from selecting members that support their mission and purpose. They also give officials unlimited discretion to approve or reject student groups, even groups that meet all the published requirements.
The lawsuit also identifies ways in which the University of Colorado has treated Ratio Christi differently than other groups. For example, non-religious groups are allowed to select members who support their purposes. And the university allows fraternities that admit only men and sororities that admit only women to continue as registered student organizations, in contradiction to the university’s policy against “discriminating based on sex.”
“Despite claiming inclusiveness and diversity as its core values, the University of Colorado is failing to foster real diversity of thought and is, instead, discriminating against a Christian group based on its beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, university presidents, and voters, but at the University of Colorado, students are learning the wrong message: that government can dictate who can lead certain student groups. It’s vital that public universities model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”
Barry Arrington, one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for Ratio Christi in the case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
- Pronunciation guide: Barham (BEAR’-um), Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)