On January 30th, I covered University of Iowa student organization Business Leaders in Christ’s legal battle against the school due to being deregistered. The reason for their unlisting? The group wouldn’t allow an open homosexual to serve in leadership.
At that time, BLinC was awaiting trial. Well, the wait is over: On Wednesday, a judge sided with the religious club.
Judge Stephanie Rose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District ruled that a Christian group can’t be removed for following its statement of faith, which — in this case — requires leaders to subscribe to sex only within the confines of heterosexual marriage.
The school had canceled the group’s validation as part of its anti-discrimination policy. Therefore, according to legal representation Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Christian bunch would unfairly have to change their tenets in order to regain good standing.
After the ruling, Senior Counsel Eric Baxter released a statement to The Daily Caller:
“The university wanted a license to discriminate, and Judge Rose said, ‘No way.'”
Judge Rose pointed out that other groups on campus also place restrictions on participation:
[T]he Registration of Student Organizations policy stresses that membership and participation in an RSO “must be open to all students without regard to” the protected traits listed in the Human Rights Policy—i.e., race, sex, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.—and RSOs must “guarantee that equal opportunity and equal access to membership, programming, facilities, and benefits shall be open to all persons.” [ECF No. 71-3 at 115]. Yet, the University has approved the constitutions of numerous organizations that explicitly limit access to leadership or membership based on religious views, race, sex, and other characteristics protected by the Human Rights Policy.2 These groups include Love Works, which requires leaders to sign a “gay-affirming statement of Christian faith”; 24-7, which requires leaders to sign and affirm a statement of faith and live according to a code of conduct (which includes abstaining from sexual conduct and relations outside of traditional marriage); House of Lorde, which implements membership “interview[s]” to maintain “a space for Black Queer individuals and/or the support thereof”; the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which limits membership to “enrolled Chinese Students and Scholars”; and Hawkapellas—Iowa (“Hawkapellas”), an all-female a cappella group” with membership controlled by “vocal auditions.”
According to the Des Moines Register, the school intends to follow the judge’s edict.
BLinC member Jake Estell praised the judicial decision:
“This victory reinforces the commonsense idea that universities can’t target religious student groups for being religious.”
The ruling is a victory, not just for Business Leaders in Christ, but for faith-based groups in general. The constitution was intended to protect religious liberty, and the execution thereof shouldn’t be picked and chosen by an administration. In this instance — and certainly, such is not always so — freedom won.
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