Christian Campus Group Gets Rare Court Win Over University

A federal court judge ruled last week that University of Iowa administrators are personally liable and must pay out of their pockets for discriminating against a campus-based Christian organization.

U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Iowa Stephanie M. Rose ruled that University of Iowa officials violated constitutional law when they removed the longstanding InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other Christian groups from campus because the groups required leaders to uphold Christian beliefs.

The judge found the University’s action “ludicrous and extremely baffling” because the university does not require the same leadership standards for non-secular groups. The school took punitive action against the Christian groups by kicking them off campus, freezing their bank accounts, shutting down their websites and advertising that they did not exist anymore due to lack of interest.  

Judge Rose said these actions violated the groups’ Constitutional right to free speech and free exercise of rights. The Court had already told the school to stop picking on Christian groups on campus. In response, officials doubled-down by also prohibiting Muslim and Sikh groups from meeting on campus property. 

A similar case was brought before the Court earlier this year, and won, by a group called Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC). They said the university banned them when a gay student complained that he was not allowed a leadership position in the group. BLinC said the student was rejected because he said specifically that he did not share the group’s religious beliefs.  

In the InterVarsity ruling the Court took the unusual step of showing its dismay at the school’s actions by stating in part, it “would never have expected the university to respond ( to the original order) by homing in on religious groups while carving out explicit exemptions for other groups. But here we are.”