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This Lawsuit Threatens Religious Colleges and Universities. Here’s What You Need to Know

A lawsuit is threatening religious colleges and universities that exercise their religious beliefs about marriage and human sexuality.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Published
Revised
A lawsuit is threatening religious colleges and universities that exercise their religious beliefs about marriage and human sexuality.

For many families, where you attend college is a source of pride. Many people attend schools their parents and grandparents attended, and they hope to send their own children to that same campus.

But if that college is religious, these families might not have the opportunity to watch their children and grandchildren become proud alumni.

That is, if one activist group gets its way.

In 2021, the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (known as “REAP”) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education. REAP’s lawsuit demands that the government block students from using federal funds at religious colleges and universities that believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman, that sex is reserved for that union, and that there are meaningful and enduring differences between the sexes.

That’s why three religious schools are taking a stand.

 

Punishing people and institutions of faith because they exercise their religious beliefs is unconstitutional.
Punishing people and institutions of faith because they exercise their religious beliefs is unconstitutional.

 

Who are Phoenix Seminary, Corban University, and William Jessup University?

Phoenix Seminary is a theological seminary that prepares and trains young men and women for Christ-centered ministry. Corban University is a private Christian college that seeks “to educate Christians who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ.” William Jessup University, another private Christian college, aims “to educate transformational leaders for the glory of God.”

These three schools—along with nearly 1,000 religious colleges and universities nationwide—would be affected by REAP’s lawsuit, as would the students who attend them. Thankfully, Phoenix Seminary, Corban University, and William Jessup University were not content to sit by and let that happen.

 

Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education

REAP, an LGBT activist group, wants to prevent students from receiving access to tuition grants, scholarships, and federal financial assistance if they attend schools with popular and long-held beliefs about marriage and human sexuality.

Religious schools would be forced to either abandon their beliefs or lose the many students who rely on federal financial assistance—an impossible choice. And students would be barred from pursuing a higher education at colleges and universities that share their faith.

But this lawsuit is about more than that.

Ultimately, REAP is claiming that legal protections for religion are unconstitutional in general. In fact, the stated purpose of REAP’s parent organization, SoulForce, is to “Sabotage Christian Supremacy.”

Alliance Defending Freedom intervened in this lawsuit on behalf of Phoenix Seminary, Corban University, and William Jessup University to defend their constitutional rights.

If religious schools don’t have the freedom to operate according to their beliefs and religious students don’t have the freedom to attend a school that shares their beliefs, then that threatens freedom for us all.

 

What's at stake?

Our Constitution protects the right of religious people and organizations to exercise their religious beliefs freely. Yet this lawsuit would punish religious colleges and their students by stripping them of much-needed financial aid simply because of their beliefs.

No court should grant a radical request to rewrite federal law—and ignore the U.S. Constitution—in this manner.

 

Case timeline

  • March 2021: REAP filed its lawsuit against the Department of Education.
  • April 2021: ADF attorneys filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Phoenix Seminary, Corban University, and William Jessup University.
  • October 2021: A federal district court issued an order allowing the three religious schools to intervene in the lawsuit.

 

The bottom line

Punishing people and institutions of faith because they exercise their religious beliefs is unconstitutional.

 

Learn more:

Alliance Defending Freedom
Non-profit organization
ADF is the world's largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, marriage and family, and parental rights.