Christian Student Group Wins Victory in Court after being Banned from University of Iowa

Christian Student Group Wins Victory in Court after being Banned from University of Iowa

The University of Iowa must temporarily reinstate a Christian student group after the group was punished for denying a leadership role in the group to a gay student.

Judge Stephanie Marie Rose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled this week that the Business Leaders in Christ’s request for a preliminary injunction be granted and ordered that the school reinstate the group as a registered campus student organization for at least 90 days.

"The court agreed that the university has to stop discriminating against BLinC because of its religious beliefs," Eric Baxter, a senior counsel with the religious freedom law firm Becket, which is representing BlinC in the case, said in a statement. "Every other group on campus gets to select leaders who embrace their mission. Religious groups don't get second-class treatment."

As previously reported, the group filed a lawsuit against the school in December after they were told they could no longer be a campus organization because they had violated the school’s discrimination policy.

The group had asked the gay student to accept the club’s statement of faith that opposed homosexuality before assuming the leadership position.

Rose wrote in her decision that the University of Iowa doesn’t apply its policy fairly.

"[T]he court must conclude on the current record that BLinC has shown that the university does not consistently and equally apply its Human Rights Policy," the judge wrote in her decision. "This raises an issue regarding whether BLinC's viewpoint was the reason it was not allowed to operate with membership requirements that the university had determined violated the policy, while at the same time Imam Mahdi was not subjected to any enforcement action."

The campus group Imam Mahdi, for Muslim students, only allows Shia Muslims as members and asks it leaders to “refrain from major sins.”

The university issued a statement, saying it would adhere to the court’s decision, but would not comment on the pending litigation.

"The university would never let Iowa State's Cy the Cardinal lead the Hawkeyes," BLinC Student President Jacob Estell said. "So why would it think it is OK to force religious student groups to select leaders who don't embrace their mission?"

The group’s request was granted just before the campus’ spring recruitment fair, where student clubs can recruit new members.


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Publication date: January 25, 2018