Defending Truth and Christianity at the University
A presentation given by Anna Kitko, Ratio Christi's Chapter Director
at University of Tennessee - Knoxville.
According to the lawsuit, the Colorado Springs chapter of Ratio Christi “seeks to advance a biblical worldview, explaining how the Bible applies to various current cultural, moral, and political issues.”
It sees its leadership as “the spiritual leaders of the chapter,” who are “responsible for promoting, guiding, and leading the spiritual health of the chapter and its members; for leading others toward Christian maturity; for teaching faithfully the word of God; and for
teaching, inculcating, defending, communicating, and advocating the chapter’s Christian beliefs.”
However, in 2016, after Ratio Christi applied for registration, which would allow it to use campus space and obtain funding for activities, its leaders were advised during a meeting that the application could not be accepted because its Constitution requires its officers to be Christians.
They also outlined the the group could not mandate that members “agree with and promote” Ratio Christi’s mission. Ratio Christi reportedly attempted to assuage the concerns and tried over the course of two years to work the matter out with the university, but were repeatedly advised that the text of the group’s Constitution still posed a problem.
According to the legal challenge, Sabrina Wienholtz, the school’s director of student clubs, explained that to require members to “agree with and promote” the group’s mission sends the message that Ratio Christi is “not open to all students,” especially “students who may disagree.” She further noted that “[t]he requirement that club officers profess faith is in violation of our anti-discrimination policy.”
Wienholtz said that if the group wanted to obtain registration status, it should use “aspirational language,” such as that leaders “should” profess faith, and members “should” promote the group’s mission, rather than that they must do so.
As Ratio Christi still remains unregistered with the University of Colorado, it filed suit on Wednesday to challenge the rejection. It notes that various campus groups require their members and leaders to adhere to certain beliefs, and they have not been denied registration.
“The Trans Student Union requires that its members ‘believe that transgender people are the gender they say they are,'” the suit outlines. “[The group] threatens to revoke the membership or leadership position of anyone who engages in ‘transphobic comments or behavior.’”
“[T]he Gender & Sexuality Alliance states that its ‘weekly meetings are offered to all trans, queer, intersex, and allied students,'” the legal complaint adds.
“[T]he Gender & Sexuality Alliance would refuse to accept as members or officers students who hold biblical beliefs that human beings are created as either male or female, that their status as such cannot change, and that sexual conduct is to be reserved for a marriage between one man and one woman.”
The fraternities only allow men to join, and the sororities only allow women, the challenge further notes, and the Young Democratic Socialists of America group is for “leftists of all stripes.”
Ratio Christi also contends that there is another Christian student group on campus that requires its members to agree to a statement of faith, and mandates that leaders “faithfully attend a local Bible-believing church.”
Similarly, “[i]t would contradict Ratio Christi’s expressive and associational purpose to permit individuals who do not profess a relationship with Jesus Christ and share its religious beliefs to serve as its officers,” the organization states.
“Conferring leadership positions to those who do not profess a relationship with Jesus Christ and share Ratio Christi’s religious beliefs would communicate a message which Ratio Christi opposes and does not wish to communicate.”
Ratio Christi is therefore seeking a court-ordered injunction preventing the University of Colorado from denying its registration status.
Read the legal challenge in full here.
“Like any other student group at a public university, religious student organizations should be free to choose their leaders without the government meddling,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Travis Barham, who is representing the student group in court, said in a statement.
“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.”