UCCS campus

UCCS won't recognize a small group of Christians and an official campus organization, meaning it cannot receive funding from student fees. A student lawsuit says the school discriminates, applying different standards to other groups.

A Christian group soon will be registered as an official student club at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, a result of a lawsuit settlement filed in Denver District Court.

UCCS will change its policies on leadership of school-sanctioned student clubs, per the settlement all parties signed, campus officials said Tuesday.

“It’s basically allowing student clubs that would require club leadership to promote the purposes and beliefs of the club,” UCCS spokesman Jared Verner said.

The policy change will be made in the UCCS student handbook by the end of the week, Verner said, and Ratio Christi, the plaintiff, will have its application approved.

Then the club, which seeks to “advance, teach and defend Christian beliefs,” can petition the student government for student-fee funding for events and other activities.

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“It’s a common-sense policy. No one would expect the leader of a group to disagree with the reason the group exists,” said Travis Barham, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom and the attorney handling the case for four UCCS students.

Brian Blevins, Kayla Callender, Joshua Stoll and Emily Danis, members of Ratio Christi, objected to UCCS refusing to recognize or register their group because it requires leaders to share its religious beliefs.

“This is an example of universities turning nondiscrimination policies, originally designed to protect groups from discrimination, on their head,” Barham said.

“Lately, universities are using those policies to say you have to have a non-Christian serve as one of your officers, which makes as much sense as a vegan group having a meat eater as its president.”

Denying Ratio Christi registered status not only limited funding but also restricted meeting and event space and administrative support.

“By saying, ‘We’ll kick you off campus,’ you’re penalizing students for rights the First Amendment protects,” Barham said. “It applies across ideologies, whether we’re talking about Christians, Muslims, communist groups, a group of musicians or feminists or filmmakers, students are free to require their leaders to adhere to their group’s shared beliefs.”

The issue has been percolating for years on college campuses , he said. A case at the University of North Carolina had a similar outcome, and like-minded litigation is pending at the University of Iowa.

UCCS also must pay $20,500 in damages, court costs and attorney fees, according to the settlement.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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