UI violated First Amendment rights of religious club

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A federal appeals court upheld a 2019 ruling against the University of Iowa, saying the university discriminated against a Christian club by stripping it and dozens of other religious clubs of their registered status.

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a lower federal court had correctly ruled that the university cannot selectively strike off student organizations. The move came following a lawsuit brought by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after university administrators struck off its local chapter and a dozen other church groups.

The university decided to deregister the groups after another faith group, Business Leaders in Christ, sued the university for expelling it from campus over a complaint that it would not leave a member openly homosexual seek a managerial position.

The appeals court said on Friday the university had engaged in “point of view discrimination” by selectively enforcing its policy requiring all clubs to offer equal opportunity and access regardless of classifications, including race, religion, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The university exempts sororities, fraternities and certain sports clubs from its policy of prohibiting gender discrimination and allows certain groups to demand members of specific racial groups, the appeals court said. It even allowed a group, LoveWorks, to require its members to sign a “declaration of Christian faith affirming homosexuals” while disqualifying groups that require members to affirm different religious declarations of faith, the report said. court.

“The university’s choice to selectively apply the human rights policy against InterVarsity suggests a preference for certain views – such as those of LoveWorks – over that of InterVarsity,” wrote Judge Jonathan Allen. Kobes for the panel. “The university focused its ‘cleansing’ on specific religious groups and then selectively applied human rights policy against them. Other groups were simply glossed over or ignored.

Lawyers for the Iowa attorney general’s office listed in court documents as representing the university in the lawsuit did not immediately return phone messages on Friday asking for comment. Email messages sent to various university media contacts seeking comment were also not immediately returned.

Daniel Blomberg, an attorney for InterVarsity, said Friday’s decision warns other schools.

“Schools are meant to be a place of free inquiry and open reflection, but school officials here punish opinions they don’t like and encourage those they have adopted – all while using money from schools. taxpayers to do it, ”Blomberg said.

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