BLinC v. University of Iowa

Becket Role:
Case Start Date:
December 11, 2017
Current Court:
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa
Original Court:
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa
Practice Area(s):

Case Snapshot

Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) is a Christian student organization at the University of Iowa. It gives like-minded students a space to share how they live their beliefs in the competitive business world. Yet in 2017, school officials targeted BLinC for its religious beliefs and eventually kicked it off campus. University officials claimed that because BLinC requires its leaders to sign a Statement of Faith, agreeing that they believe and will follow BLinC’s religious beliefs, it is violating the school’s antidiscrimination policy. BLinC was told that to get back on campus, it would have to change its Statement of Faith, which would mean changing its core beliefs.

Case Summary

Integrating faith and work

BLinC’s members are Christians who answer the call to serve because of their deeply held beliefs. At the heart of BLinC’s identity is its mission to form future business leaders who will integrate their religious values such as integrity, service, and compassion into the workplace. To support this mission, BLinC hosts weekly discussion groups, where students pray, share Biblical messages, and spiritually strengthen one another. BLinC also regularly invites Christian business professionals to mentor students on how they can integrate the faith and their careers.

As a part of its ministry, BLinC also successfully partners with a local non-profit, after-school program for mentoring at-risk youth. It has also teamed up with a Christ-centered education organization dedicated to teaching low-income children how to become excellent students and leaders in their communities.

Fighting discrimination

The University’s decision to kick BLinC off campus was premeditated religious discrimination, plain and simple. The University’s own policies expressly state that the University cannot stop religious groups from screening leaders based on their faith. And the University initially told BLinC that it could select leaders based on their commitment to its religious beliefs, so long as its beliefs were clearly identified so students would be aware. But after BLinC published its Statement of Faith online, the University said they were discriminating and kicked the group off campus.

Yet at the same time the University supports the rights of fraternities at the University of Iowa to admit only men. The Feminist Union can require its members to agree on issues of contraception and abortion. The group Students for Life requires its members to be pro-life. All of that is perfectly acceptable, making it more apparent that the school is discriminating against BLinC by barring it from having the same ability to select leaders who share and live by its mission.

With Becket’s help, on December 11, 2017, BLinC sued the University of Iowa to protect its right to select leaders who share its faith and mission.

On January 23, 2017, the court ruled in favor of BLinC, reinstating it on campus and giving the University 90 days to either apply its policy as written, which would allow all groups to select leaders who embrace their mission, or stop all groups from selecting leaders based on their ideologies.