Christian University Sues Over State's Student Aid Acess

An evangelical Christian university has filed a federal lawsuit against the Colorado Commission on Higher Education for denying its application participate in state-funded student financial aid programs.

State statutes from the 1970s bar “pervasively sectarian” institutions from participating in student financial aid programs. Last month, the label was placed on Colorado Christian University (CCU) by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The univeresity is a four-year interdenominational school in Lakewood with approximately 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students.

Colorado Christian asked last year to take part in the state’s College Opportunity Fund, student subsidies that will begin next year. The commission told the school that it had failed the “sectarian” test.

“This is a changing field of law at the federal level and an important issue for the courts to address,” he said. “We carefully reviewed with our attorney the application against current legal standards.”

Attorney Ben Bull is with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) which, along with the Christian Legal Society, recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that CCU's exclusion from the aid programs violates the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"Our client is a very strong, evangelical Christian university which is outspoken on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia," Bull explains, " and that seems to be too radical for the state and ... 'too religious' -- so it's been blackballed."

Bull maintains the state should "not be in the business of determining when religion is too religious" and that students who choose to attend religious colleges "are no less deserving of aid than students attending non-religious schools."

“The state should not be in the business of determining when religion is too religious,” Bull said. “Religious colleges and universities are not second-class institutions simply because they are religious, and the students attending them are no less deserving of aid than students attending nonreligious schools.”

The lawsuit, Colorado Christian University v. Weaver, et al., was filed on December 6 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.