Christian group allowed back on campus Court chides University of Iowa for religious discrimination
Melinda Skea 202-349-7224 firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. – An Iowa federal court late yesterday protected Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC), a Christian student group at the University of Iowa that was kicked off campus for requiring its student leaders to affirm its Biblical beliefs. In BLinC v. University of Iowa, the court said that BlinC must be allowed back on campus to participate in a student recruitment fair today, January 24. This decision is a step toward ensuring that religious student groups are treated the same as all other groups on campus rather than being penalized for their faith.
The court decision ruled for BLinC saying it found that, “BLinC has shown that the University does not consistently and equally apply” its policy to student groups.
“The University would never let Iowa State’s Cy the Cardinal lead the Hawkeyes,” said Jacob Estell, BLinC student president. “So why would it think it is okay to force religious student groups to select leaders who don’t embrace their mission?”
Membership in BLinC is open to all University students and, to preserve its mission, BLinC asks only its leaders to affirm that they embrace and seek to live by its religious beliefs. But after a student complained about BLinC’s leadership requirements and its beliefs concerning marriage, University administrators kicked BLinC off campus and told it to “revise” its Statement of Faith and submit an “acceptable plan” for selecting leaders if it wanted back on.
Late last week the court heard oral argument in the case. BLinC argued that the University is violating the First Amendment by penalizing it for its religious viewpoint, pointing out that the student who complained about BLinC’s beliefs started his own organization that espouses the exact opposite perspective. The Free Speech, Free Exercise, and Establishment Clauses all prohibit the University from discriminating against religious viewpoints.
“The Court agreed that the University has to stop discriminating against BLinC because of its religious beliefs,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel at Becket, which represents BLinC. “Every other group on campus gets to select leaders who embrace their mission. Religious groups don’t get second-class treatment.”
The Court ordered the University to readmit BLinC immediately and gave the University 90 days to bring its policy enforcement into compliance with law. A decision to permanently allow BLinC to stay on campus and pick leaders who embrace its faith is expected sometime later this year.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at email@example.com or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here).