Ratio Christi at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs v. Sharkey
Description: University of Colorado, Colorado Springs refused to grant Ratio Christi, a Christian apologetics organization, registered status because the group requires students who lead it to share its religious beliefs. As a result, the university had denied it registered status, limiting its access to funding, meeting and event space, and administrative support.
Lawsuit prompts Colorado university to change policy, protect students' freedoms
As a Christian apologetics organization, Ratio Christi seeks to defend the Christian faith and explain how the Bible applies to various current cultural, ethical, and political issues. Any student can attend its events and join the organization. But Ratio Christi requires that those who lead the Christian organization share its religious beliefs. As a result, the university had denied it registered status, limiting its access to funding, meeting and event space, and administrative support.
“We commend the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs for quickly implementing this common sense policy reform,” said ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham. “It would be absurd for the university to require the vegan student group to appoint a meat-lover as its president. Thankfully, the university quickly fixed its policy by adding provisions that respect students’ rights to free association, no longer forcing Christian students to let atheists or other non-Christians to lead their Bible studies in order to become a registered club.”
The lawsuit, Ratio Christi at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs v. Sharkey, challenged the university’s policy which allowed UCCS officials to deny registered status to a group because the organization selects leaders that share and will advocate for the organization’s religious or political philosophy. They also gave officials unlimited discretion to approve or reject student groups, even groups that meet all the published requirements.
“Like any other student group at a public university, religious student organizations should be free to choose their leaders without the government meddling,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, university presidents, and voters, and we’re grateful the University of Colorado, has chosen to correct course, encourage diversity of thought, and protect students’ constitutional freedoms.”
- Pronunciation guide: Barham (BEAR’-um), Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
Travis C. Barham serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role with the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. He focuses his legal efforts on preserving and reclaiming religious freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of association for students and faculty at universities throughout the country. His work has been instrumental in securing several strategic appellate court victories, including a public university free speech victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2021. Barham earned his Juris Doctor from Washington and Lee University School of Law in 2006, where he graduated summa cum laude. Barham is a member of the bars of Georgia and Arizona. He is also admitted to practice before multiple federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tyson Langhofer serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and director of its Center for Academic Freedom. Before joining ADF, Langhofer was a partner with Stinson Leonard Street LLP, where he worked as a commercial litigation attorney for 15 years and earned Martindale-Hubbell’s AV Preeminent® rating. Langhofer earned his Juris Doctor from Regent University School of Law, where he graduated cum laude in 1999. He obtained a B.A. in international business with a minor in economics from Wichita State University in 1996. A member of the bar in Virginia, Kansas, and Arizona, Langhofer is also admitted to practice in numerous federal district courts.