A Christian student group has sued the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, alleging that the school discriminated against the group’s views when it denied a funding request to bring a Christian philosopher to campus as a guest speaker.
The federal lawsuit by a campus chapter of Christian apologetics group Ratio Christi (Latin: “The reason of Christ”) alleges that the university failed to distribute money to student groups in a fair, viewpoint-neutral manner, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
The lawsuit says Ratio Christi requested $1,500 in January from the university’s Fund Allocation Committee, which it was entitled to do as a recognized student organization. The group wanted to bring in philosopher and former university professor Robert Audi, who is currently a philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame.
The students were represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization that supports conservative Christian causes.
“The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has failed to ensure its student organizations are treated fairly and objectively; it turned down Ratio Christi’s reasonable request because of a blatant bias against its particular religious and ideological viewpoint,” said Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Michael Ross.
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A university spokesperson declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The lawsuit alleges that the university’s program council told Ratio Christi that it would need to invite another person from a different ideological perspective to the same event to receive funding. The university allegedly said it could not promote speakers of an ideological nature with its student organization funding, according to the lawsuit.
Alliance Defending Freedom argues that the university spends thousands of dollars each year on events that are political and ideological in nature without imposing the same requirement.
In a statement Friday, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts called on the university Chancellor Ronnie Green to intervene and define policies that encourage all viewpoints.
University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, a Republican candidate for governor, said the allegations, if true, were unacceptable, and “a change must be made immediately.”
The student group still held its speaking event in April with funding from the organization and its members, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit said Audi agreed to reduce his speaking fee from $1,500 to $750 after learning the university had denied funding. Total expenses for the event, including marketing, were just over $900.
The lawsuit asks a federal judge to reimburse the students for the expenses. It also asks the university to return the students’ activity fees and pay their attorneys’ fees stemming from the lawsuit.