This Lawsuit Threatens Religious Colleges and Universities. Here's What You Need to Know


Alliance Defending Freedom

For many families, where you attend college is a source of pride. Many attend where their parents and grandparents attended, and they hope to send their own children to that same campus.

But if that college is religious, these families might not have the opportunity to watch their children and grandchildren become proud alumni.

That is, if one activist group gets its way.

Earlier this year, the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (known as “REAP”) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education. REAP’s lawsuit demands that the government block students from using federal funds at religious colleges and universities that believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman, that sex is reserved for that union, and that there are meaningful and enduring differences between the sexes.

That’s why three religious schools are taking a stand.

Who: Phoenix Seminary, Corban University, and William Jessup University

Phoenix Seminary is a theological seminary that exists to prepare and train young men and women for Christ-centered ministry. Corban University is a private Christian college that seeks “to educate Christians who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ.” William Jessup University, another private Christian college, aims “to educate transformational leaders for the glory of God.”

These three schools—along with nearly 1,000 religious colleges and universities nationwide—would be impacted by REAP’s lawsuit, as would the students that attend them. Thankfully, Phoenix Seminary, Corban University, and William Jessup University were not content to sit by and let that happen.

What: Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education

REAP, an LGBTQ activist group, wants to prevent students at religious schools from receiving access to tuition grants, scholarships, and federal financial assistance due to their beliefs about marriage and human sexuality. Religious schools would be forced to either lose students who would be denied needed federal financial assistance or abandon their beliefs—an impossible choice. And students would be barred from pursuing a higher education at colleges and universities that share their faith.

But this lawsuit is about more than that.

Ultimately, REAP is claiming that legal protections for religion are unconstitutional in general. In fact, the stated purpose of REAP’s parent organization, SoulForce, is to “Sabotage Christian Supremacy.”

Alliance Defending Freedom has asked to intervene in this lawsuit on behalf of Phoenix Seminary, Corban University, and William Jessup University in order to defend their constitutional rights.

If religious schools don’t have the freedom to operate according to their beliefs and religious students don’t have the freedom to attend a school that shares their beliefs, then that threatens freedom for us all.

When: March 2021 – Present

REAP filed this lawsuit in March 2021, and in April ADF attorneys filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Phoenix Seminary, Corban University, and William Jessup University. These schools are asking the court to allow them to defend their freedoms and their students’ freedoms under federal law and the Constitution.

Where : Arizona, Oregon, and California

Phoenix Seminary is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Corban University is located in Salem, Oregon. And William Jessup University is located in Rocklin, California. But make no mistake, this lawsuit reaches far beyond these three states—any religious college or university that holds biblical beliefs about marriage and human sexuality faces this threat.

Why: To Protect the Freedoms of Religious Colleges and Their Students

Our Constitution protects the right of religious people and organizations to exercise their religious beliefs freely. Yet, this lawsuit would punish religious colleges and their students by stripping them of much-needed financial aid simply because of their beliefs. No court should grant a radical request to rewrite federal law—and ignore the U.S. Constitution—in this manner.

The Bottom Line

Punishing people and institutions of faith because they exercise their religious beliefs is unconstitutional.

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