The Colorado Springs Gazette (“Gazette”) is reporting on a settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by a student Christian club, Ratio Christi, against the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) over the denial of official status on campus. As The Daily Citizen reported back in November, Ratio Christi requires its student leaders to share the organization’s religious beliefs, although anyone is free to join the club, whose purpose is to defend Christian beliefs through apologetics.
The denial of official status (what UCCS calls “registered status”) means that a club cannot participate in receiving a share of student fees that other clubs are allotted, which reduces the club’s ability to hold events and participate equally in the campus marketplace of ideas.
The Gazette article identifies two major problems with the UCCS policy prohibiting clubs from requiring its leaders to ascribe to the mission of the organization. First, activists who disagree with a club’s viewpoint, such as faithful adherence to Christianity, could infiltrate the group’s leadership and change the direction and message of the club. Second, the university didn’t force all clubs to follow the school policy, resulting in what First Amendment scholars (and the U.S. Supreme Court) call “viewpoint discrimination” against the Christian club.
The legal settlement involves a change in policy that will affect all University of Colorado campuses, allowing student clubs to choose their own leaders free from government meddling, while requiring clubs to allow any person who wants to join to do so.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represents Ratio Christi, and Tyson Langhofer is their Senior Counsel. In a press release, he expressed his gratitude for the university’s change in position:
“We commend the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs for quickly implementing this common sense policy reform. It would be absurd for the university to require the vegan student group to appoint a meat-lover as its president. Thankfully, the university has acknowledged its error and announce 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.”
The Colorado settlement follows closely on the heels of a recent federal court decision in Iowa declaring that the University of Iowa had violated a Christian club’s First Amendment rights by selectively enforcing its leadership rules in the same discriminatory way that UCCS was alleged to have done.
Related: A Pretty Good Week for Free Speech