Religious schools in court to protect faith-based education Minnesota politicians battle in court to ban faith-based schools from pre-college credit program
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – Two religious schools were in federal court today defending against Minnesota’s ongoing efforts to bar some faith-based universities from offering free college credit to high school students. In Loe v. Jett, a group of Christian families and schools sued Minnesota earlier this year for excluding universities that require students to sign a statement of faith from the state’s Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program. After Minnesota promised in June not to enforce the law while the case is ongoing, Governor Walz’s Department of Education filed counterclaims against the schools, arguing that because the schools receive public funds, they are state actors and their statement of faith requirements are unconstitutional. The schools were in court today defending their right to continue participating in the program free from religious discrimination.
Minnesota created the PSEO program almost 40 years ago to enable high school juniors and seniors to earn college credit for free. Through this program, students have been able to attend any eligible public or private school of their choice. Melinda and Mark Loe and Dawn Erickson are parents in Minnesota who have used PSEO funds for their older children to attend two outstanding Christian schools—University of Northwestern – St. Paul and Crown College—that uphold their religious values. Their current high-school kids hoped to do the same, but earlier this year Governor Tim Walz signed a bill into law that excludes religious schools like Northwestern and Crown from participating in the PSEO program because they require on-campus students to sign a statement of faith. Their statements ask students to agree with the schools’ religious beliefs for the purpose of upholding their Christian campus communities.
But the Department of Education filed counterclaims against Northwestern and Crown in an unrelenting effort to force the schools to abandon their religious admissions criteria. For the first time, the state is claiming that the schools’ acceptance of PSEO students means that they are subject to the same constitutional requirements as the government, and that their Christian campus communities are unconstitutional—an argument that would extend not just to Crown and Northwestern, but to every private school that accepts students who receive government aid. With the help of Becket, the schools asked the court today to dismiss the state’s retaliatory counterclaims.
Statements for media use:
Corbin Hoornbeek, president at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul:
“Northwestern strives to offer a Christ-centered education to every student who joins our campus community to equip them to serve effectively in their professions and give leadership in the home, community, church, and world. Our university wants to ensure that this essential mission is available to both undergraduates and PSEO students alike. We are praying that the court protects our ability to serve all those who want to take advantage of what our campus community has to offer into the future.”
Andrew Denton, president of Crown College:
“Crown College has offered generations of students opportunities to excel intellectually and spiritually through our biblically integrated education. The PSEO program has long allowed us to extend this opportunity to young students ready to begin their on-campus experience. We pray that the court will continue to allow every student in Minnesota to use PSEO funds at the school that best meets their needs and matches their values.”
Diana Thomson, senior counsel at Becket:
“Minnesota is waging a senseless campaign against students and the faith-based schools that wish to serve them. Private schools don’t become public schools just because they accept students who receive state funds, and to argue that they do is a transparent attempt to control Minnesotans’ religious beliefs and practices.”
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at email@example.com or 202-349-7219.