Last week, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the University of Iowa had discriminated against a Christian campus outreach group in one of the worst cases of such discrimination they had ever seen.
The court sided unanimously on Friday with InterVarsity Fellowship, which was deregistered by the university for requiring that its leaders agree with a statement of faith that affirmed biblical principles.
The ruling stated that the court would be “hard-pressed to find a clearer example of viewpoint discrimination” than the case of the school’s “clearly unconstitutional” actions against the religious organization.
The school “targeted religious groups for differential treatment under the Human Rights Policy — while carving out exemptions and ignoring other violative groups with missions [the University] presumably supported. The University and individual defendants turned a blind eye to decades of First Amendment jurisprudence or they proceeded full speed ahead knowing they were violating the law,” the judges wrote, as reported by The Blaze.
School administrators behind the decision to deregister the InterVarsity Fellowship as a campus group, meanwhile, were warned to “make calculated choices about enacting or enforcing [such] unconstitutional policies.”
“Schools are supposed to be a place of free inquiry and open thought, but the school officials here punished opinions they didn’t like and promoted ones they did—all while using taxpayer dollars to do it,” attorney Daniel Blomberg of Becket law firm, which represented the student group, said in a statement.
“The good news is that they’ve been held accountable, and school officials nationwide are on notice. We are optimistic that in the future, colleges will pursue policies of accommodation, not discrimination, when it comes to religious exercise on campus,” he continued.
In March, a federal judge also sided with InterVarsity Fellowship after it was also deregistered by Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan for its statement of faith requirement.
“The uncontested facts demonstrate that Defendants violated Plaintiffs’ rights to internal management, free speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and free exercise as a matter of law,” Judge Cleland ruled at the time. “Defendants also violated the Establishment Clause as a matter of law.”
These are both indeed cut-and-dry First Amendment cases, as the universities were public. Faith-based organizations have every right to require their leaders agree with the very values they are trying to promote by operating on college campuses.
It is heartening to see federal judges uphold our most sacred rights in a time when these rights are under attack in nearly every facet of society.
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