Minnesota parents, colleges file lawsuit over anti-Christian education law

Christian parents and colleges have filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota law that would force faith-based institutions out of dual-enrollment programs.

The state’s Postsecondary Enrollment…

Christian parents and colleges have filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota law that would force faith-based institutions out of dual-enrollment programs.

The state’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program reimburses institutions that provide dual enrollment opportunities for high school students. 

However, a section in a recently passed law would deem exclusively faith-based institutions ineligible.  

“The PSEO program guarantees all students equal opportunity to pursue excellent academics at the school of their choice,” said plaintiffs Mark and Melinda Loe in their press release. “Rather than discriminating against people of faith, Minnesota should be looking for ways to help all students find a school that best fits their interest and values.” 

The other plaintiffs in the case are University of Northwestern, St. Paul and Crown College, which both require their students to agree with an orthodox Christian statement of faith –something some Minnesota lawmakers find unacceptable. 

“Many faith institutions across the country and in Minnesota are able to be true to their faith and their mission and still accept students without compelling them to sign a statement,” said Rep. Laurie Pryor, D-District 49A, one of the bill’s primary sponsors. 

The updated requirements for PSEO providers say: 

An eligible institution must not require a faith statement from a secondary student seeking to enroll in a postsecondary course under this section during the application process or base any part of the admission decision on a student’s race, creed, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation or religious beliefs or affiliations. 

Northwestern has participated in PSEO programs for 25 years, serves 200-300 students annually, and is “the largest PSEO provider in Minnesota,” according to the college’s president, Corbin Hoornbeek.  

Crown College has also participated in the PSEO program for over 20 years and serves up to 70 students each year. 

But despite Rep. Pryor’s thinly veiled criticism about their statements of faith and the possibility of losing their programs, neither institution is willing to compromise its beliefs.  

“For over 100 years, Crown College has remained a boldly Christian college dedicated to our mission to provide a biblically based education,” said Andrew Denton, president of Crown. “The First Amendment protects our current and future PSEO students’ right to participate in PSEO without abandoning our faith.” 

The lawsuit alleges the new standard violates both the First and the Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Minnesota Constitution. 

It also cites three recent Supreme Court cases – Trinity v. Comer, Espinoza v. Montana, and Carson v. Makin – which all upheld the right of religious institutions to access public education funds.  

“Minnesota politicians just slammed the door on thousands of kids in their state who want to get a head start on college,” said Diana Thomson, senior counsel at Becket, which is representing the plaintiffs.  

“That decision is not only patently anti-religious; it is also against the law. We are confident this ban will not stand for long,” Thomson concluded. 

This isn’t the first time Minnesota has tried to force Christians out of public education. Early this year, the state’s teacher licensing board proposed new standards that would effectively make it impossible for a teacher with orthodox Christian beliefs – or anyone else who believes in two biological sexes – to obtain a license. 

The change to PSEO eligibility is scheduled to take effect on July 1.