University of Iowa Sued for Second Time in Less Than a Year Over Religious Liberty

InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship has become the second student group in less than a year to sue the University of Iowa for religious discrimination.
University of Iowa photo

For the second time in less than a year, a Christian student group has sued the University of Iowa to protect its right to select leaders who hold traditional Christian beliefs.

The InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship filed a lawsuit in federal court Aug. 6 after the university revoked the fellowship’s status as an official student organization for requiring group leaders “to share the group’s faith and exemplify its Christian values,” according to the complaint filed by the nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The university told InterVarsity Graduate via email it would not even be permitted to state in its constitution that leaders were “strongly encouraged” to hold the Christian faith.

In December 2017, the student organization Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) filed a similar lawsuit against the university after it was kicked off campus for requiring leaders to hold biblical beliefs about human sexuality. A federal judge ruled in January that the university must temporarily restore BLinC’s registered status while the case is pending.

InterVarsity Graduate was one of 38 student groups deregistered in July for allegedly failing to comply with the university’s human rights policy, according to The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Twenty-two of those groups “are organized around religion, culture or ideology,” The Gazette reported, including Christian, Muslim, Mormon and Sikh groups.

The university’s human rights policy states, according to the lawsuit, “In no aspect of [the university’s] program shall there be differences in the treatment of persons because of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual.”

InterVarsity Graduate student president Katrina Schrock said, “We’re grateful to have been part of the university community for 25 years, and we think that the university has been a richer place for having Sikh, Muslim, Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, atheist and Christian groups. Because we love our school, we hope it reconsiders and lets religious groups continue to authentically reflect their religious roots,” according to a Becket news release.

Iowa City’s Press-Citizen reported the university set out in January and February to enforce its human rights policy and reviewed the constitutions of 513 student organizations. The 356 groups that did not include a “full and correct” statement of the university’s human rights policy in their constitutions were given deadlines to remedy the perceived problem — June 15 for most types of organizations and Sept. 4 for sororities and fraternities.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press, David Roach