Court orders university to reinstate Christian club booted for refusing to elect LGBT activist
IOWA CITY, January 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian group has prevailed in court and will be reinstated as a campus organization after being stripped of club status for disqualifying an active homosexual from running for its leadership position.
U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose granted a temporary injunction blocking the University of Iowa’s (UI) ban against the campus Christian group Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC). Tuesday’s decision allowed BLinC to recruit at a fair in the student union on Wednesday.
“The University has to stop discriminating against BLinC because of its religious beliefs,” Becket Fund attorney Eric Baxter stated in a press release. “Every other group on campus gets to select leaders who embrace their mission. Religious groups don’t get second-class treatment.”
Gay activist Marcus Miller applied for BLinC leadership, but refused to agree to BLinC’s Statement of Faith, which includes sexual chastity outside heterosexual marriage. “He expressly stated that he rejected BLinC’s religious beliefs and would not follow them,” the group explained.
Miller then filed a complaint with the university, claiming he was rejected because he is gay. UI in turn yanked BLinC’s status as a registered student group, effectively halting their activities on campus.
In temporarily reversing the university’s ban, Judge Rose reasoned that the school is not consistently enforcing its own anti-discrimination policy. She noted as an example a campus Muslim group which excludes all but Muslims.
“BLinC’s motion is granted based solely upon the university’s selective enforcement of an otherwise reasonable and viewpoint neutral nondiscrimination policy,” Rose explained.
“Public universities can’t tell religious student groups what to believe or who to pick as their leaders,” Baxter said. “The court has told the University of Iowa to stop discriminating against BLinC because of its religious beliefs.”
When Judge Rose asked why UI hadn’t punished the Muslim group or others that limit leadership, the school’s lawyer said enforcement of its anti-discrimination policy is in response to complaints, and UI hadn’t received any other complaints.
Even Marcus Miller’s own gay religious organization requires executive officers to “sign and agree to (its) Mission and Statement of Core Beliefs.”
“BLinC has shown that the university does not consistently and equally apply its Human Rights Policy,” Rose wrote. “This raises an issue regarding whether BLinC’s viewpoint was the reason it was not allowed to operate…while at the same time Imam Mahdi was not subjected to any enforcement action.”
BLinC’s lawsuit said just that, maintaining that they did not turn down Marcus Miller for leadership because he was a homosexual, but because he refused to agree to the organization’s Statement of Faith, which includes sexual chastity outside of heterosexual marriage.
A university statement says it “respects the decision of the court,” and allowed BLinC in the student union to recruit on Wednesday.
After the ninety-day injunction, both parties may take any additional action they deem necessary.
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.”
Nicole Russell at the Washington Examiner opined, “Hopefully, this will be a step toward ensuring that religious student groups are treated the same as all other groups on campus rather than being ostracized for their faith.”
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that religious institutions have a constitutional right to determine their leaders without government interference.
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