‘No group—religious or secular—could survive with leaders who reject its values…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) A federal district court in Iowa ruled that University of Iowa officials acted against the law when they forced InterVarsity, a Christian ministry group, off the campus.
The college’s vice president and other officials decided in 2018 that InterVarsity was discriminatory because it required its leaders to profess the Christian faith. InterVarsity does not require that its members profess the Christian faith.
“We must have leaders who share our faith,” said Greg Jao, director of external relations at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, Becket reported. “No group—religious or secular—could survive with leaders who reject its values. We’re grateful the court has stopped the University’s religious discrimination, and we look forward to continuing our ministry on campus for years to come.”
Sikh, Muslim and Latter-day Saints organizations were also kicked off campus for asking that their leaders profess their groups’ faiths.
University officials did not extend the principle to every campus organization. Some secular and religious organizations were allowed to ask that their leaders adhere to their beliefs and principles.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented InterVarsity, said the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa decided that the discrimination “was so egregious that the officers involved would be personally accountable for any money InterVarsity lost fighting to stay on campus.”
The university “froze [InterVarsity’s] bank account, shut down its website and advertised that it was ‘defunct’ for lack of student interest.”
The following year, InterVarsity’s membership fell at the fastest pace in two decades.
Prior to the case, Becket previously represented Business Leaders in Christ, another Christian student organization that the University of Iowa kicked off campus for requiring its leaders to share the group’s religious beliefs.
In both, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled that University of Iowa officials had unequally applied the law.
“It’s too bad it took twice for the University to learn its lesson,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket.
“There was no excuse the first time for squashing students’ First Amendment rights,” he said. “University officials nationwide should now take note that religious discrimination will hit them in the pocketbook.”