A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the University of Iowa must temporarily reinstate a Christian student group that was booted out for refusing to violate its Statement of Faith.
Judge Stephanie Marie Rose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa granted Business Leaders in Christ’s (BLinC) request for an injunction and ordered the school to reinstate the group as a registered campus student organization for at least 90 days.
“BLinC’s motion is granted based solely upon the university’s selective enforcement of an otherwise reasonable and viewpoint neutral nondiscrimination policy,” Rose’s order states.
BLinC’s lawyers were delighted.
“The court agreed that the university has to stop discriminating against BLinC because of its religious beliefs,” said Eric Baxter, a senior counsel with the religious freedom law firm Becket, which is representing BlinC. “Every other group on campus gets to select leaders who embrace their mission. Religious groups don’t get second-class treatment.”
As Faithwire previously reported, the Christian group came under fire after they refused a leadership position to a student who professed to being openly gay. It all came down to the group’s Statement of Faith, and the fact that the student in question refused to sign it.
The section of the group’s Statement of Faith that been brought under the spotlight simply readd: “Members should conduct their careers without the greed, racism, sexual immorality and selfishness that all too often arise in business, political, and cultural institutions.”
“BLinC declined the student’s request because he expressly stated that he rejected BLinC’s religious beliefs and would not follow them,” the organization said in its complaint, as reported by The Washington Times.
Becket argued that the University’s actions against BLinC are unprecedented in their discriminatory nature. Indeed, the college permits the rights of fraternities at the University of Iowa to admit only men. Additionally, The Feminist Union can require its members to agree on issues of contraception and abortion before their join.
“The school is discriminating against BLinC by barring it from having the same ability to select leaders who share and live by its mission,” a summary of the case stated.
“This is 2017, not 1984,” Jacob Estell, the student president of BLinC, told Becket in a statement. “Our beliefs weren’t made by us, and they can’t be changed by us either — certainly not just to satisfy Orwellian government rules.”
Tuesday’s court ruling continued:
“[T]he court must conclude on the current record that BLinC has shown that the university does not consistently and equally apply its Human Rights Policy,” the judge wrote in her decision. “This raises an issue regarding whether BLinC’s viewpoint was the reason it was not allowed to operate with membership requirements that the university had determined violated the policy, while at the same time Imam Mahdi was not subjected to any enforcement action.”
“In light of this selective enforcement, the Court finds BLinC has established the requisite fair chance of prevailing on the merits of its claims under the Free Speech Clause,” the judge’s decision conclided.
The University of Iowa released a statement following the judge’s clear ruling.
“The court has ordered the university to restore BLinC to registered student organization status for 90 days,” the school stated, as reported by The Gazette. “The university respects the decision of the court and has acted accordingly by extending an invitation to BLinC to participate in the student organization fair on Jan. 24. The university will not comment on the merits of the case per its policy on pending litigation.”
As a result of the ruling, BLinC will be allowed to attend the student fair, which they said was a key event for recruitment to their club, and essential to their survival.