Faith under fire? Christian student groups go to war with higher ed.
A federal court in Iowa ruled Wednesday in favor of a Christian student group at the University of Iowa that sued the school after being de-registered as a student organization.
The University of Iowa de-registered Business Leaders in Christ in fall 2017 after denying a leadership position to an openly gay student who did not hold the group’s Christian views. The University made that decision based off its Human Rights policy, according to The Gazette.
In a January 2018 injunction, a federal judge gave the University of Iowa 90 days to temporarily reinstate the group as a registered student organization. BLinC held RSO status following the January 2018 ruling through Wednesday, when the court ordered the university to extend to the group permanent registered status, as Campus Reform previously reported.
UI student Kyle Apple told Campus Reform in January that after BLinC was disbanded there was “a lot of pushback from groups of students who felt the university enforced their policies in a discriminatory way." Apple added that "the university was wrong in removing Business Leaders in Christ from campus” because it “arbitrarily forced the organization to engage in a behavior that went against their religious beliefs.”
The Becket Fund, a legal defense nonprofit that argues religious liberty cases, represented BLinC in court and announced the ruling handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.
“The Constitution does not tolerate the way [the University] chose to enforce the Human Rights Policy. Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which [the University] ha[s] failed to withstand," the court's ruling stated.
Another Christian student group, Ratio Christi at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, is having similar issues dealing with its school administrators. The group, which allows any student to become a member as long as they are in agreement with its mission, but requires all leaders to be of the Christian faith, was not allowed to register as a student organization, which would give the group access to funds, help from university administrators, and space to host events on campus.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit legal firm that defends religious liberty, is representing Ratio Christi. ADF filed the case on the group's behalf in November 2018. The case is currently being litigated.
“Like any other student group at a public university, religious student organizations should be free to choose their leaders without the government meddling," Travis Barham, senior counsel at ADF, said in a news release at the time, as reported by Campus Reform.
A University of Iowa spokeswoman told Campus Reform on Wednesday, "we are reviewing the ruling and will follow the court order."
The University of Colorado-Colorado Springs did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.