HOUSTON – Christian student organization, Ratio Christi, secured another First Amendment campus win, this time at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, following a federal lawsuit brought by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys. 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 Tuesday.
“All students deserve to be treated fairly and without discrimination based on their faith, and I commend the University of Houston-Clear Lake general counsel’s office for taking swift action to ensure Ratio Christi is given equal opportunity among its peer groups,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “The University is supposed to be a free market of ideas. To meet that ideal, public universities must vigilantly protect the constitutional rights of students to freely speak and gather according to their religious beliefs.”
ADF attorneys represent Ratio Christi, which had filed the lawsuit against the university for discriminating against the group’s Christian beliefs by excluding it from Registered Student Organization status and the benefits that come with that recognition. The university excluded Ratio Christi because it requires its leaders to agree with its values and mission. Other organizations recognized by the university had similar requirements of their leaders.
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 tenets of that organization.” In addition, the university added transparent guidelines for how a student group should gain approval to become a registered student organization, and an appeal process in the event of a denial. The university also paid $26,200 in damages and attorneys’ fees to Ratio Christi.
“We are pleased to see the university resolve this matter to respect the First Amendment rights of Ratio Christi and accommodate the organization’s commonsense leadership requirements. 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 student groups based on their faith.”
ADF attorneys filed Ratio Christi at the University of Houston–Clear Lake v. Khator in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Murphy Klasing of Weycer, Kaplan, Pulaski & Zuber, P.C. in Houston, one of nearly 3,500 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel.
In recent years, ADF has also reached successful settlements with universities in Georgia and Colorado after they agreed to change their policies to protect Ratio Christi’s First Amendment rights.
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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