Christian group sues university after being booted for refusing to elect LGBT activist as leader
IOWA CITY, Iowa, January 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian student group has brought legal action against the University of Iowa (UI) for stripping them of club status after the group disqualified an active homosexual from running for leadership. The group disqualified the homosexual because he refused to agree to the group's policy that leaders must "avoid...any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC), a group that focuses on service in the community and meets for Bible study, was told by the school that they were censored because student organizations “must adhere to the mission of the university (and its) policies.”
At issue are the qualifications for leadership in the Christian organization. While anyone may attend BLinC meetings, leaders are chosen only from those who agree to BLinC’s Statement of Faith, “which include(s) avoiding any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman.”
“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 lawsuit states.
When gay activist Marcus Miller applied for BLinC leadership, he was disqualified because he refused to agree to BLinC’s convictions. “He expressly stated that he rejected BLinC’s religious beliefs and would not follow them,” the group explained.
Thus jilted, Miller filed a complaint with the university, claiming he was rejected because he is an openly practicing homosexual. UI, in turn, yanked BLinC’s status as a registered student group, effectively halting their activities on campus.
UI accused the group of violating the school’s Human Rights Policy, which disallows “discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation.
BLinC remains banned from reserving campus rooms, setting up at student recruitment fairs, and receiving funding from student activity fees.
“This is premeditated religious discrimination, plain and simple,” the Becket Fund’s Eric Baxter charged. “Every organization has to be able to select leaders who embrace its mission,” the senior counsel handing BLinC’s lawsuit added.
For its part, BLinC says it “cannot and will not ask leaders who do not share its beliefs to lead members in prayer or to convey those beliefs.”
“The University’s attempt to tell BLinC how to define its faith and select its leaders constitutes religious animus and discrimination and violates clearly established federal and state law,” the lawsuit summarizes.
Baxter noted feminist groups have the right to choose feminist-minded leaders, and global warming groups have the right to reject climate deniers as leaders.
“The campus Democrats exist to promote their party’s values and can require their leader to be a Democrat,” BLinC President Jacob Estell illustrated in an op-ed for the Des Moines Register.
Even Marcus Miller’s own pro-homosexual organization requires executive officers to “sign and agree to (its) Mission and Statement of Core Beliefs.”
As a matter of policy, the University of Iowa “allows other student groups to define their own mission and limit both leadership and membership to those who embrace that mission,” the lawsuit argues. Therefore, “the University’s decision is...contrary to the University’s own policies and practices.”
UI says BLinC must change its statement of belief and submit “acceptable” parameters for its leaders before the school reinstates them.
“The officials at my school have told our group that we must ‘revise’ our religious beliefs to their satisfaction. But our beliefs weren’t made by us, and they can’t be changed by us — and certainly not just to please coercive university policies,” Estell concluded.
BLinC hopes its lawsuit “serves as a reminder to universities everywhere that they cannot discriminate against student groups just because they don’t like their beliefs.”
The university defends its decision. Spokeswoman Jeneane Beck admitted the court must balance “the compelling interest of religious freedom on the one hand, and the compelling interest of preventing discrimination on the other.”
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that religious institutions have a constitutional right to determine their leaders without government interference.