Judge sides with anti-LGBTQ Christian group at Univ. of Iowa
IOWA CITY — A student Christian group at the University of Iowa will be rerecognized as a registered group after a recent decision by a judge, a local newspaper reported on Friday.
The Gazette of Cedar Rapids reported that Business Leaders in Christ, or BLinC, will be allowed to work as a registered student organization. The group has come under fire because it doesn’t allow LGBTQ students into leadership positions. The university said that was a violation of their human rights policy and tried to remove the group as a registered organizations. The two have been in court since last year. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has been involved in religious-freedom cases like one involving Hobby Lobby, is representing BLinC.
From the Gazette:
The university earlier this year agreed with Business Leaders in Christ, or BLinC — the UI faith-based group at the center of the controversy — to extend through June 30 a court order nullifying its deregistration.
But June 12, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, UI attorneys asked a judge to reinstate its banishment of BLinC.
In its request, the university cited the high court case — even though the same-sex couple did not win it — by arguing the decision nonetheless “reaffirmed the principle that content neutral and generally applicable laws may infringe on certain First Amendment rights.”
“In this case, the University of Iowa’s Human Rights Policy is content neutral and generally applicable to all registered student organizations,” according to the UI filing.
Trouble is, according to a judge who on June 28 rejected the request, UI administrators haven’t applied the policy equally.
“It appears a large number of student organizations were operating in violation of the university’s stated policies at the time the university revoked BLinC’s registered student organization status,” U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose wrote in her opinion, citing new data provided by the UI’s own review of how it applies its human rights policy.
The judge said too much is unknown about how the group’s viewpoint affected the decision to deregister the group. In the Colorado wedding cake case, the human right commission’s comments and attitude and been a major part of why that case had been decided for the baker.
BLinC accused the UI of discrimination by unequally enforcing its policy. It said other UI groups also limit leadership and even membership in some cases to those who agree with their ideology or religious beliefs, pointing out a Muslim student group that reserves posts for Muslims.
The university has said student organization membership should be open to anyone, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, gender identity or other protected class, according to the Gazette.
The newspaper reported that only 153 of more than 500 student organizations were in full compliance this spring. By June 8, 186 organizations including fraternities and sororities were still not in compliance.