Judge orders university to reinstate Christian student group
A federal court has ruled that the University of Iowa must reinstate a Christian organization that was banned from campus for refusing to provide a leadership role to a gay student.
As previously reported by Campus Reform, the Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) sued the university last year, arguing that the public institution revoked its official status after a student accused the organization of denying him a leadership role because he is “openly gay.”
In its lawsuit, the organization maintained that “the charge was false” and that “BLinC declined the student’s request because he expressly stated that he rejected BLinC’s religious beliefs and would not follow them.”
Judge Stephanie M. Rose sided with the Christian group Tuesday, stating that the school appeared to engage in “selective enforcement” of its non-discrimination policy that was not rigorously applied to other student organizations.
“In light of this selective enforcement, the Court finds BLinC has established the requisite fair chance of prevailing on the merits of its claims under the Free Speech Clause,” the judge wrote. “Because BLinC has established the required likelihood of success on one of its claims, the Court will not address BLinC’s claims under the Religious Clauses.”
The ruling echoed the arguments made by BLinC, which claimed that when the school rendered its decision, it “singled out BLinC’s Christian beliefs about sexual morality, finding that these beliefs, on their face, were discriminatory and impermissible.”
Central to the debate was the organization’s “Statement of Faith” articulating “what it means to be a disciple of Christ.”
In the past, the group underscored that in an attempt to “preserve and fully express its religious mission, BLinC requires all of its leaders (but not members) to affirm that they will embrace and follow the Statement of Faith.”
The plaintiffs accused the university of instructing the group submit an “acceptable plan” for leadership elections and revise its Statement of Faith if it wants to keep its official status on campus.
“The University knows that what it is doing to BLinC is unfair, illegal, and unconstitutional,” the group argued. “It allows other student groups to define their own mission and limit both leadership and membership to those who embrace that mission.”
In a press release from Becket, the firm that represented BLinC in court, Senior Counsel Eric Baxter exulted that the judge “agreed that the University has to stop discriminating against BLinC because of its religious beliefs,” saying that “every other group on campus gets to select leaders who embrace their mission,” and now religious groups will no longer be subjected to “second-class treatment.”
According to Becket, the school will now have 90 days to reinstate BLinC as an official student organization.
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