7th Circuit: Illinois May Apply Education Laws To Bible Colleges

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In Illinois Bible Colleges Association v. Anderson, (7th Cir., Aug. 29, 2017), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected challenges to three Illinois statutes that require all colleges to obtain state approval before they may issue degrees.  Plaintiffs claimed that applying these statutes to Bible Colleges violates their 1st and 14th Amendment rights. The Court disagreed, saying;[Plaintiffs] first argue the Illinois regulations violate the Establishment Clause by entangling the government with their religious operations. However, the plaintiffs have not sought … approval from the State under the applicable statutes. Therefore, there is no basis to believe that the regulations would infringe on their religious beliefs or practices or would unnecessarily entangle the government in religion…. Likewise, the plaintiffs’ Free Exercise claim fails because the statutes are neutral laws of general application and apply equally to secular and religious institutions. The plaintiffs’ Equal Protection claim fares no better: While the state statutes exempt older educational institutions…, when no improper discrimination is involved, the government may include a grandfather clause in legislation without violating the guarantee of Equal Protection. Finally, the student-plaintiff alleges a violation of his right to practice a profession of his choice. But the regulations do not impact that choice. Rather, they merely determine whether he may obtain a degree from specific post-secondary institutions.

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