A Christian student organization in Texas will once again be allowed to register on campus and choose leaders who agree with its values and mission.
Houston-Clear Lake University had refused to allow Ratio Christi to register as an official student organization because it requires its leaders to affirm its Christian values and mission. Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, Ratio Christi filed a federal lawsuit alleging First Amendment discrimination. In his complaint, Ratio Christi pointed out that other groups, such as the Vietnamese Student Association and the Veteran Student Association, limit leadership and membership to those who share experiences and characteristics.
The university elected to settle the lawsuit, ADF reported in a statement. As part of a settlement, the university agreed to a policy change that allows Ratio Christi and other campus groups to choose leaders who agree with their values and mission. In light of the settlement, ADF attorneys filed a voluntary dismissal of the case on February 15.
“All students deserve to be treated fairly and without discrimination based on their faith, and I commend the University of Houston-Clear Lake Office of the General Counsel for taking prompt action to ensure that Ratio Christi benefits of equal opportunity among his peers,” said ADF Legal. lawyer Caleb Dalton. “University is supposed to be a free marketplace of ideas. To achieve this ideal, public universities must vigilantly protect the constitutional rights of students to express themselves freely and to gather according to their religious beliefs.
Victory for all student organizations
As part of the settlement, the university added the following language to its student organization handbook: “A student organization may limit officers to those members who subscribe to the principles of that organization.”
Additionally, the university has added transparent guidelines on how a group of students must obtain approval to become a registered student organization, and an appeal process if denied. The university also paid Ratio Christi $26,200 in damages and attorneys’ fees.
“We are excited to see the university address this issue to uphold Ratio Christi’s First Amendment rights and meet the common sense leadership requirements of the organization.” We hope other universities will follow the lead of the University of Houston at Clear Lake,” said ADF senior counsel Gregg Walters. “Public universities across the country are learning that there are consequences when they unlawfully discriminate against students or groups of students because of their faith.”
In recent years, the ADF has also reached settlements with universities in Georgia and Colorado after agreeing to change their policies to protect Ratio Christi’s First Amendment rights.