The University of Houston-Clear Lake granted recognition to a Christian student organization a week after a religious freedom group sued the school for denying that recognition.
According to a lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom on October 25, officials at the University of Houston-Clear Lake took issue with the group Ratio Christi, which requires its leaders to “subscribe to and identify with its members’ shared purpose and beliefs.”
Ratio Christi is a student organization that “uses apologetics to share the Gospel and to strengthen Christians for the challenges that we face on college and university campuses,” according to its website.
The student organization applied to become a Registered Student Organization in mid-August. Shelby Kuepker, a coordinator in the student involvement and leadership office, told the group that it could participate in the upcoming “Student Organization Expo,” according to the lawsuit.
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However, on August 23 during a Zoom meeting Kuepker asked the chapter director to clarify a portion of its constitution which sets requirements for students who want to become leaders of the organization, according to the lawsuit.
“During the meeting, Defendant Kuepker asked the chapter director what Ratio Christi meant by stating in its constitution that its officers’ primary responsibility is ‘living … a life which places Jesus Christ at the center, setting the example for others to follow,’” the lawsuit states.
Kuepker also allegedly told the group that she had concerns about their leadership requirements, and must include a non-discrimination clause in their constitution.
On Aug. 24, Ratio Christi submitted their revised constitution for review, which included the non-discrimination clause, but added a sentence stating they are free to select leaders who follow the organization’s “religious faith,” which means professing “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Kuepker, on the same day, emailed Ratio Christi and explained that the non-discrimination clause must be included “without any edits made.”
At that point, Kuepker removed Ratio Christi from the Student Involvement Fair on August 26, and stated that the university will need more time to review their application to become a Registered Student Organization, according to the lawsuit.
On September 3, according to the lawsuit, Kuepker stated that she had researched the group’s University of Houston chapter, which contained the full “unmodified” non-discrimination clause in their constitution.
However, that same constitution, according to the lawsuit, also contained the same leadership requirements as Ratio Christi’s proposed constitution at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
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On September 23, Kuepker confirmed that Ratio Christi did meet all of the necessary requirements to become a Registered Student Organization, but stated that the Dean of Students Office is still reviewing their constitution, according to the lawsuit.
Kuepker also explained that “Participation and officer status must be open to all UHCL students,” but Alliance Defending Freedom states in the lawsuit that this is “demonstrably false.”
The lawsuit cites the Vietnamese Students Association constitution, which requires that officers “must be Vietnamese students currently enrolled at UHCL” as one example.
Less than a week after the initial lawsuit was filed, Alliance Defending Freedom announced that the university decided to grant Ratio Christi Registered Student Organization status.
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A University of Houston system spokesperson told Fox News that Ratio Christi has been approved as a Registered Student Organization, but denied that the group was ever denied, as Alliance Defending Freedom claims.
“The University of Houston-Clear Lake has approved Ratio Christi as a registered student organization. This is a not the reversal of a prior decision. The application was never denied and was still in process when the lawsuit was filed,” the statement read.
The spokesperson also said that the “University of Houston-Clear Lake has always allowed officers of student organizations to align with the tenets of the organization they represent.”
Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, told Fox News that Ratio Christi runs into issues like this at colleges across the country.
“[Ratio Christi] repeatedly run into this same kind of problem and there is a clear bias against, you know, conservative and religious organizations who are trying to obtain recognition on campuses,” Lanhofer said. “Even though the Supreme Court has made it very clear that that university cannot discriminate against groups simply because of their viewpoints, they cannot deny recognition or not give them funding simply because of their viewpoints. But that’s what’s happening.”
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Langhofer said that while the University of Houston-Clear Lake did the right thing in approving Ratio Christi to be a registered student organization, the university still has to change the policy.