Christian Student Group Cannot Be Punished for Requiring Its Leaders to Be Christians, Judge Rules
A Christian student group at a college in Michigan will not be punished for requiring leaders in the group to agree to a statement of faith, a judge ruled Monday.
The group, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Wayne State University, had initially had their official student club status revoked in October 2017 because of the requirement, The Christian Post reports. The college called the group's policy for leadership positions "discriminatory."
Without official club recognition status, InterVarsity could not reserve meeting rooms for free or apply for certain campus funding.
The group filed a lawsuit in March 2018 against WSU's board of governors, board members and administrators. The school then temporarily reinstated the student group but said it still had the right to remove it.
This week, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Judge Robert H. Cleland ruled that the actions of the university "strike at the heart" of the First Amendment and are "obviously odious to the Constitution."
"The uncontested facts demonstrate that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' rights to internal management, free speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and free exercise as a matter of law," Cleland wrote in his decision. "Defendants also violated the Establishment Clause as a matter of law."
"No religious group can constitutionally be made an outsider, excluded from equal access to public or university life, simply because it insists on religious leaders who believe in its cause," the ruling stated.
In the lawsuit, InterVarsity claimed that other student groups are allowed specific requirements for members.
"Wayne State rightly allows fraternities to have only male leaders, female athletic clubs to have only female leaders, and African-American clubs to have only African-American leaders," the lawsuit stated. "But Wayne State cannot then say it is wrong for a Christian club to have only Christian leaders."
The fellowship group has been part of the college for more than 75 years.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.