Too 'Sectarian'

Court: Students at some religious schools can't get state funds.

Colorado Christian University (CCU) has appealed a federal district court decision that denies state financial aid to its students because of the school's religious affiliation. The case could set an example for other Christian higher education institutions or even schools that apply for K-12 vouchers.

CCU filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Commission on Higher Education in 2004 after the commission deemed the nondenominational school "pervasively sectarian" and denied state-funded tuition grants. A U.S. district judge ruled against CCU on May 18, noting, "even its secular instruction is infused with religious components."

Although the case will only set a precedent for those in the 10th federal district, courts around the country could see this decision as an example for other religious education cases.

"The most immediate impact may be on legislatures that are considering vouchers for the K-12 context," said Greg Baylor of the Christian Legal Society.

In 2003, the 2,200-student liberal arts university applied to take part in the state's College Opportunity Fund, which makes stipends available to undergraduate students who qualify for in-state tuition. Regis University, a Jesuit school, and the University of Denver, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, are allowed to participate in the voucher program.

But CCU was deemed "pervasively sectarian" because faculty and students must share certain religious views, participate in religious services, and take theological courses.

"I think it's a question of whether those who choose to attend a religious school are second-class citizens," CCU president Bill Armstrong said. "Soon, they are going to say that students can use the roads to come to the University of Denver but not ...

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Too 'Sectarian'
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August 2007

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