Court decided in favor of another religious group at U of Iowa

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University of Iowa

IOWA CITY — A court has ruled for a Christian campus group that said the University of Iowa acted unlawfully when it said the group’s policies violated school policy.

The Des Moines Register also reported that since this incident came after a previous decision in favor of a Christian student group, and the school should have known how to treat the groups, individual school administrators would now be liable for damages.

From the Des Moines Register:

InterVarsity, a Christian ministry with college chapters across the country, was told in June 2018 that its requirement that leaders affirm a statement of faith ran afoul of UI’s Human Rights Policy, which prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex or other characteristics. 

InterVarsity’s rules had come under scrutiny after [U.S. District Judge Stephanie] Rose’s January 2018 order in the first court case that Business Leaders in Christ, a group that had lost its formal registration with UI, should be allowed back on campus as a recognized student group because its free-speech rights probably had been violated.

The problem with UI’s assessment of both groups, Rose wrote, is that UI has and continues to permit similar groups to keep their exclusive rules while maintaining their registered status. For example, fraternities and sororities are explicitly allowed to have gender restrictions under the policy, Rose wrote. A UI official acknowledged in a deposition that “lots of groups” at UI “exclude leaders who don’t share their creed.” 

Rose also cited the example of Love Works, “a Christian group that requires its leaders to agree with the group’s core beliefs, which include affirming those in the LGBTQ+ community and acknowledging that ‘Jesus will be at the center of everything we do.'” Its constitution was deemed acceptable by UI.

Rose granted summary judgment to the InterVarsity group on the grounds that its First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, association and religion were violated. But she rejected a different argument that UI impermissibly meddled in a religious group’s private governance and ruled in favor of the university, saying court cases cited by the plaintiffs were not applicable to these circumstances.

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