In January 2015, Mauck & Baker, LLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dayspring Bible College & Seminary, Providence Baptist College, United Faith Christian Institute and Bible College, as well as two associations supporting the colleges and a student.
The lawsuit became necessary when the state of Illinois threatened to shut down these Bible colleges and refer them to the Illinois Attorney General for consumer fraud. The state cited these Bible colleges for operating religious schools and granting religious degrees without “state approval.”
As the law currently stands, all Illinois Bible colleges, unless those already grandfathered, must obtain state approval in order to operate and grant degrees. This is true even if a college seeks to grant only religious degrees, such as theology, for example. The state approval process permits the state to, among other things, determine whether the religious curriculum of Bible colleges is “adequate” and to decide whether religious faculty members, such as a teaching pastor, have the proper experiences and education to offer religious education.
The Bible colleges challenging the regulations objected to these intrusive measures into their religious education and have argued that the state of Illinois has violated their free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association.
On March 28, 2016, almost one year after the parties finished briefing on the State’s motion to dismiss, District Court Judge Sharon Coleman dismissed the Bible colleges’ case. Although the lower court took a long time to issue a ruling, the Court of Appeals promptly scheduled oral argument and has allotted each side twenty-five minutes to present arguments.
The Bible colleges are encouraged that the Court of Appeals has decided to act quickly and that it has granted almost three times as much time for oral argument than the average case. These signs indicate that the Court of Appeals appreciates the significance of the Bible colleges’ constitutional arguments and the impact that a ruling will have on religious liberty in post-secondary education.
The oral arguments will be heard on December 8th and soon after will be available online HERE at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' website under "Year 16, Case No. 1754"