Minnesota pauses PSEO exclusion on certain faith-based institutions

Pending a lawsuit against a recent provision that bars certain religious institutions from participating in Minnesota’s Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, the state recently issued an injunction that prevents “state officials from enforcing the new law while the legal process is ongoing.”

As I previously wrote here, Minnesota’s recently passed education omnibus bill bars religious colleges or universities that require a statement of faith from students from participating in the state’s popular PSEO program, which allows eligible high school students to earn college credit at a public or private institution located in Minnesota. Courses offered have always had to be nonsectarian.

The restrictive language was removed by the Senate on a bipartisan vote — two DFL senators in swing districts voted with Republicans to protect the popular program for religious colleges — but the conference committee ignored this bipartisan amendment and reverted to the original language.

With the help of Becket, a public interest legal and educational institution, Minnesota “families and schools challenged the law in federal court to stop Minnesota from punishing religious students and the faith-based schools they want to attend because they are religious.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has recently affirmed that a state is not required to subsidize private education, but once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.

According to Becket: “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. As this effort to walk back demonstrates, the state didn’t do its homework before it passed this unconstitutional law. The next step is for the court to strike down this ban for good.”