Texas university agrees religious student organizations can require group leaders to hold specific religious beliefs

by mcardinal

Megan Udinski, FISM News



Ratio Cristi, a religious organization at a Texas university, dropped a first amendment lawsuit after the school changed its policies which allowed for discrimination against religious groups.

The University of Houston – Clear Lake refused to acknowledge the Christian group Ratio Cristi as an official student organization which permits certain privileges based on a rule the club implemented requiring its leaders to hold to the same religious beliefs as the members.

In October 2021, the organization alongside Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit against the school based on religious discrimination. Almost immediately, the school fully recognized the group as a Registered Student Organization (RSO). 

Legal counsel for ADF responded, “We commend the university and its general counsel for taking quick action to correct this injustice.…College should be a time when students learn firsthand how the Constitution protects their rights to express their opinion, as well as the opinions and views of those with whom they disagree. University officials must act consistently with the law to ensure that all students are treated fairly and without discrimination based on their faith.” 

While that was a win in and of itself, the ADF pushed for clear policy changes to take place before backing down. The university agreed to a policy change, and as of Tuesday the ADF voluntarily dismissed the case. Now the handbook contains the language, “A student organization may limit officers to those members who subscribe to the tenets of that organization.” 

Without this policy, the school was able to unfairly restrict privileges from Ratio Cristi while permitting other groups with similar requirements of leadership to maintain Registered Student Organization status. Now the university will no longer be able to discriminate against student groups based on religious belief.

Additionally, the school clarified the process for how a student organization gains approval to be fully recognized as well as an appeal process if they are denied that status. They also paid Ratio Cristi $26,200 in damages and attorneys’ fees. 

A representative of the university emailed a statement to the Christian Post in response to the settlement in which they write, “A clarification was added to the university’s Student Organization Handbook to ensure there was no confusion regarding selection of officers for student organizations. Regardless of the clarification, the University of Houston-Clear Lake has always allowed officers of student organizations to align with the tenets of the organization they represent.”

In light of this victory, ADF Senior Counsel Gregg Walters commented, “Public universities across the country are learning that there are consequences when they unlawfully discriminate against students or student groups based on their faith.”

In 2019, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs went through a similar process with the Ratio Cristi chapter there in which it also paid damages and made clarifications to their handbook allowing organizations to require their leadership to adhere to the group’s core beliefs. 

And in 2018, the ADF pursued a lawsuit against Kennesaw State due to their extremely restrictive “speech-zone” for pro-life individuals to speak freely. 

Ratio Cristi President and CEO Dr. Corey Miller stated, “In today’s academic environment, Christian students and educators must not only defend our faith, but we must also defend our right to defend our faith.”  

The freedom to live out our faith is a core tenet of the Constitution of the United States, and we must continue to stand against those who would try to infringe that basic right.