A small Christian liberal-arts college has charged Colorado with religious discrimination after being disqualified from a college voucher program for in-state students.

Colorado Christian University (CCU), a 1,600-student school near Denver, filed a lawsuit in federal court in December. The suit challenges the state's designation of the school as "pervasively sectarian"—making its students ineligible for the College Opportunity Fund.

CCU president Larry Donnithorne said, "This is discrimination on the basis of religion. The First Amendment rights of our students are being violated."

The nondenominational university contends that it is actually less "sectarian" in many respects than is Regis University, a Jesuit college in Denver. Regis passed the eligibility test. Naropa University, a Buddhist school in Boulder, has also qualified for other state assistance.

However, Donnithorne acknowledged that Regis made concessions to pass the test—such as teaching other religions, hiring non-Christians, and making chapel services optional.

Jason Hopfer, director of government relations for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE), said the agency had little choice in its ruling. "Unfortunately, we have to abide by the statutes that are in place," he said. "We welcome the courts' bringing clarity to the issue."

The Center for Law and Religious Freedom of the Christian Legal Society filed the suit. The suit alleges cche's decision violates the free-exercise, establishment, and equal-protection clauses of the Constitution. Center director Gregory S. Baylor said it reflects "an outdated understanding of the separation of church and state."

Related Elsewhere:

Colorado Christian University has a press release about the university's legal challenge.

News elsewhere includes:

Christian university files federal suit claiming bias | Colorado Christian University has filed a federal lawsuit against the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, contending that the state's student-aid programs discriminate against religious schools and universities. (Rocky Mountain News, December 13, 2004)
Christian college sues over voucher-program access | An evangelical Christian university has sued the Colorado Commission on Higher Education for denying its application to a college voucher program for in-state students. (Associated Press, December 13, 2004)

More articles on Christian colleges are available on our Education page.

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