MINNEAPOLIS, MN– The Maranatha Christian Fellowship, a student organization operating on the campus of the University of Minnesota, sued the University today for violating the organization's First Amendment rights.
The university is forcing the fellowship to choose between surrendering its First Amendment rights and its basic Christian teachings or to accept second-class status and be unable to meet on campus or receive university funds as other student groups do.
The Alliance Defense Fund, America’s largest public interest religious liberty legal alliance, is representing the Maranatha Christian Fellowship.
Jordan Lorence, legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund and a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, said that the University's requirement forces all religious groups to surrender their beliefs in order to meet on campus or receive funding. "Students organized Maranatha Christian Fellowship to promote the Gospel of Christ. Anyone can attend the fellowship’s meetings, but it is absurd for the university to require this Christian group to allow people with other religious beliefs to lead it. Will the university require the campus animal rights group to allow hunters as members, and the campus Socialists to have free market libertarians leading them? I thought the University was supposed to be a marketplace of ideas," Lorence said.
To meet on campus and receive funding as other student groups do, the fellowship must be recognized as a registered student organization. But to remain a registered student organization, the university is requiring the Maranatha Christian Fellowship to sign an "Equal Opportunity Statement."
"That sounds harmless," Lorence said, "but the so-called ‘Equal Opportunity Statement’ means the fellowship will be forced to accept members and officers who reject the group’s Christian teachings. The university is imposing an unconstitutional choice on the fellowship. The Maranatha Christian Fellowship cannot surrender its distinguishing elements and still accomplish its mission of Christian outreach. The university has left these students no choice but to seek legal remedies."
The case, Maranatha Christian Fellowship v. The Regents of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota System, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota in Minneapolis. No court date has been set.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.