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Secular Student Alliance v. U.S. Department of Education

Description: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Christian student organization Ratio Christi filed a motion in federal court Thursday to intervene in defense of a U.S. Department of Education regulation which requires all public colleges and universities that are federal grant recipients to comply with the First Amendment. Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit to challenge the rule, implemented during the Trump administration, on behalf of the Secular Student Alliance.

College students at a Bible study
Friday, May 10, 2024

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Erik Baptist regarding a friend-of-the-court brief ADF attorneys filed Friday on behalf of Ratio Christi, a nationwide Christian apologetics organization. The brief was filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Secular Student Alliance v. U.S. Department of Education, in which a secular student group is suing the federal government over a rule that protects the First Amendment freedoms of religious student groups on college campuses:

“Universities are meant to be a marketplace of ideas where students can learn to respect diverse opinions and beliefs and not have to fear punishment or harassment because of their own values. The Department of Education rightfully updated its regulations to ensure that institutions of higher education have policies that align with the First Amendment. If the rule was to change, student groups like Ratio Christi would suffer immediate consequences. Ratio Christi has at least twice gone to court over discriminatory policies targeted at their beliefs, and the Department of Education updated its regulations to prevent these types of violations. The Secular Student Alliance has suffered no injury based on these updates, and the Department of Education would be wrong to rescind this policy. We urge the court to uphold First Amendment freedoms for college students everywhere.”

Ratio Christi—whose mission is to defend the intellectual plausibility of the Christian faith on campus and explain how the Christian viewpoint relates to personal, vocational, and cultural aspects of life—filed a motion to intervene in the case in 2021 to uphold the federal rule, on which the court as not yet ruled.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Matt Bowman

Matt Bowman serves as senior counsel and director of regulatory practice for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he leads the team focusing on the impact of administrative law on religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and family. From 2017 to 2020, Bowman was a senior executive service appointee in the Trump administration, serving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as Deputy General Counsel, and then in the Office for Civil Rights. Prior to joining HHS, Bowman was an accomplished litigator at ADF for over ten years. Before joining ADF in 2006, Bowman served as a law clerk for Judges Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Michael A. Chagares, at the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and for Judge John M. Roll at the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Bowman earned his J.D. summa cum laude and was first in his class at Ave Maria School of Law in 2003. He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and Michigan and is admitted to practice at the U.S. Supreme Court and multiple federal appellate and district courts.

ABOUT Erik Baptist

Erik Baptist serves as senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, focusing on administrative litigation and regulatory advocacy. Before joining ADF, he was a partner at Wiley Rein LLP—one of the largest law firms in Washington, D.C.—where he employed his expertise in administrative and environmental law to represent clients on litigation, regulatory, and enforcement matters. Prior to working at Wiley, Baptist served as a senior executive service political appointee at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As the senior deputy general counsel and deputy assistant administrator, he directed EPA’s litigation, implemented groundbreaking rulemakings and policies, represented EPA and defended witnesses in response to congressional inquiries, and collectively helped oversee the work of more than 1,100 EPA lawyers, scientists, and staff. He earned his B.A. from Vanderbilt University and his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School. Baptist is an active member of the D.C. Bar and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and various federal courts of appeal.