In response to a recent lawsuit filed by Christian families and schools, the state of Minnesota has agreed to not enforce a new law that restricts some faith-based schools from offering Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) to high school students.
“It’s not every day that a state asks a federal court to tie its hands to prevent it from enforcing its own anti-religious law — but Minnesota has done just that,” said Diana Thompson, senior counsel at Becket, the legal firm representing the families and schools.
She went on to say that the state “didn’t do its homework” before the “unconstitutional law” was passed. “The next step is for the court to strike down this ban for good,” Thompson said.
Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill into law last month that excludes colleges such as Northwestern and Crown from the program due to their requirement for on-campus students to affirm a statement of faith, which fosters Christian communities. The PSEO program allows high school students to earn college credits for free.
Parents and schools decided to challenge the law in federal court, aiming to prevent Minnesota from penalizing religious students and faith-based institutions of their choice. The Supreme Court has consistently upheld the principle that public benefits accessible to private organizations cannot exclude certain organizations based on religious affiliation, Becket explained in a press release.
The state agreed Wednesday to a federal court order that bars officials from enforcing the law while the legal process unfolds. This development ensures that, for now, PSEO students across Minnesota can continue attending faith-based schools that align with their beliefs.
Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey, said Republicans in the Minnesota House warned that the law is unconstitutional, but “the DFL trifecta wouldn’t listen.”
“The fact that the AG’s office laid down rather than argue they would win on the merits is very telling,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mark and Melinda Loe, both plaintiffs in the case, expressed their satisfaction with Minnesota’s decision. “We are glad that Minnesota has agreed not to punish our children and many students like them for wanting to learn at schools that reflect their values,” the Loes said in a statement. “We hope the court will eventually strike this law down for good and protect all religious students and the schools they want to attend.”
Corbin Hoornbeek, president at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, conveyed gratitude on behalf of the Northwestern community. “The state cannot single out schools such as Northwestern due to our campus culture and the integration of faith and learning,” Hoornbeek said.
Similarly, Andrew Denton, president of Crown College, expressed his appreciation, saying, “We remain steadfast in our commitment to upholding our mission of providing PSEO students a boldly Christian, biblically based education, and we are hopeful the court will permanently protect our faith-based culture and the students we serve.”
The Minnesota Secular Government Caucus released a statement in response to the lawsuit at the end of May, dismissing the concerns raised by the families and schools. “The state is not restricting these schools from practicing their religious beliefs in any manner,” the press release said.