A pair of Christian schools filed a federal lawsuit this week seeking to overturn a new Minnesota law that strips faith-based universities and colleges from a program that benefits college-bound high school students.
Under the program, the Post Secondary Enrollment Options Act (PSEO), high schoolers (sophomores and up) can take classes on campus for free in order to earn college credit.
Although it was enacted in 1985, this year Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, signed a bill into law that amends the program to exclude any college or university that requires students to sign a statement of faith.
On Wednesday, two Christian schools – the University of Northwestern-St. Paul and Crown College – joined a lawsuit with a group of Christian parents opposing the new law, claiming it is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of religion.
Becket, a legal organization, is representing them.
“Northwestern exists to provide Christ-centered education, equipping students to grow intellectually and spiritually, to serve effectively in their professions, and to give God-honoring leadership in the home, church, community, and world,” said Corbin Hoornbeek, president at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. He noted that his school is the largest PSEO provider in the state. “... Northwestern desires to continue helping on-campus PSEO students flourish in preparation for the next chapter of their academic journey. We’re hopeful that the court will uphold our ability to do so, just like any other Minnesota school is permitted to do.”
Parents Mark and Melinda Loe, two plaintiffs, say they have used the program for their older children at Christian schools.
“Rather than discriminating against people of faith, Minnesota should be looking for ways to help all students find a school that best fits their interests and values,” they said.
Becket, in the lawsuit, claims the law is blatantly unconstitutional.
“In the last six years, the Supreme Court has three times held that once a state opens funding to private institutions, the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause forbids excluding participants based on their religion or their religious use of the funds,” the lawsuit says. “States discriminating against religion have already struck out three times at the Supreme Court. Minnesota should not get a fourth attempt.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.