A college group called Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) is suing the University of Iowa over the right to discriminate against people who support LGBTQ rights while still getting to keep all the benefits of being a registered student organization at the school.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court last month. According to BLinC, a student member of the group, Marcus Miller, claimed “he was denied a leadership position because he is ‘openly gay.'” The group says that’s not true; he was denied because he rejected the group’s Statement of Faith which includes a “sexual immorality” clause. But as a result of the allegation, the university de-registered the group, meaning members couldn’t get access to campus recruitment fairs, free meeting space in classrooms, or access to certain kinds of funding.
The group claimed in its lawsuit:
The University is targeting BLinC because it dislikes BLinC’s religious beliefs.
The University’s attempt to tell BLinC how to define its faith and select its leaders constitutes religious animus and discrimination and violates clearly established federal and state law.
The university, in its response, says they were not singling out the Christian group in any way. They simply acted when they learned BLinC wasn’t following the school’s non-discrimination policy. The group disagrees and says Miller was rejected from leadership, not because he was gay, but because he didn’t agree that same-sex relationships were sinful.
So what should win out here? The school’s belief that registered student groups can’t discriminate against members, or the group’s claim that they have the religious freedom to discriminate as they please while still retaining all the benefits of campus recognition?
We’ll get a temporary answer soon, since the Christians want a response by next week, in time for the upcoming recruitment fair:
Judge Stephanie M Rose has set a hearing for Thursday on a request from the group to reinstate its on-campus privileges in time to participate in spring recruitment fairs on 24 and 25 January, something the group says is “crucial to its existence”.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this exact controversy play out on college campuses. In 2014, Maine’s Bowdoin College decided a Christian group couldn’t discriminate with the school’s blessings. In 2015, California State University allowed Christian groups to discriminate while reaping the benefits of campus recognition. Legislators in some states even sponsored bills that would allow Christians to discriminate without being penalized for it. It’s not like the Supreme Court has issued a ruling that applies to everybody.
There’s no reason to give these groups special rights, though. If they want to reject the school’s non-discrimination policies, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t get access to funds or free space made available to groups playing by the rules. They want the best of both worlds and they don’t deserve it. The judge should make clear that any group that wants to reject LGBTQ rights isn’t owed any perks from a public university.
That said, we aren’t told in the reporting about this case what Miller’s motivation was to run for the group’s leadership. Was he just trolling them or did he really want to help run a group that didn’t want him in a position of power? It doesn’t matter for the purposes of the case, which is between the school and the club, but if it matters, Miller began his own group on campus a year ago. Love Works, unlike BLinC, is both Christian and inclusive. I would hope decent students looking for a Christian group find their way to that one instead of any club preaching bigotry.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)