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Christian group wins lawsuit against university that denied funding of philosopher's lecture on God

Lincoln Nebraska
Aerial view of a large Public University in Lincoln, Nebraska. |

A federal court has ruled in favor of a Christian student organization that filed a lawsuit against the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, accusing the school of wrongfully denying funding for a guest speaker.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Ratio Christi, a student organization that seeks to “advance, teach, and defend Christian beliefs,” had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska in October 2021 after the school refused to grant the group’s request of $1,500 in student activity funding to bring in Notre Dame professor Robert Audi for a lecture on whether it's rational to believe in God.

At the time, the school said it could not promote “speakers of a political and ideological nature” and told the Christian organization that it would need to invite a speaker to represent the opposite views of Audi to get the funding. Ratio Christi’s members ultimately paid for Audi to come to UNL themselves.

But on Dec. 15, ADF announced two university officials agreed to accept a court judgment against them in the amount of $1,500 for denying the club’s funding request.

The university paid $25,000 in attorneys' fees and costs and changed its policy on how it distributes student fees to student organizations “to promote the availability of diverse viewpoints to UNL students” and ensure allocation of funding is done in a “viewpoint neutral manner.”

ADF attorneys later filed a stipulated dismissal of the case in light of the favorable settlement. 

“We hope not to litigate but to debate ideas. May the truth prevail in the context of the free market of debated ideas. We’re grateful for the opportunity provided by ADF to remind universities that their fundamental purpose is the pursuit of truth and that the U.S. Constitution provides the freedom necessary for that end,” said Corey Miller, president and CEO of Ratio Christi.

In its lawsuit, Ratio Christi, a Latin phrase that translates to “the reason for Christ,” had argued that the school spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars in student fees each year to pay for speakers and other events promoting political and ideological viewpoints on topics like sexual orientation, ‘gender identity,’ ‘reproductive justice,’ social justice, police reform, and political activism.”

“And Defendants do not present opposing viewpoints. … Commonly, the student speech that Defendants fund on those and other topics conflict with the viewpoints held by Ratio Christi, the Student Plaintiffs, and other University Students,” it added. 

The lawsuit made headlines and drew the attention of Gov. Pete Ricketts, who urged the university to support “speakers from a wide variety of viewpoints on campus, including Christian speakers.”

“UNL has previously brought in much more controversial speakers, and Dr. Robert Audi and Ratio Christi should be given the same respect,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “I urge University of Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green to step in and define policies to end this kind of discrimination and to send a message that all viewpoints, including Christian values, are welcome.”

In a statement, ADF applauded the school for taking the “necessary step to protect freedom of speech on its campus.”

“Today’s college students are the future leaders of our country, which is why it is critical that universities model our First Amendment values,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregg Walters. “It’s the duty of university officials to ensure student organizations are treated fairly and objectively, not blatantly discriminated against because of a club’s particular religious or ideological viewpoint as happened to Ratio Christi.”

ADF previously filed lawsuit against The University of Houston-Clear Lake, arguing that the school denied official recognition of Ratio Christi, prompting the university to officially register the Christian group as a student organization.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: leah.klett@christianpost.com

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