The University of Iowa kicked a small Christian group of students, Business Leaders in Christ, off campus recently, because they regularly share their religious beliefs. In response, the group sued. The dean of students told BLinC that if it wants to be back on campus, it must “revise” its religious beliefs and submit an “acceptable plan” for selecting its leaders.
In BLinC v. University of Iowa, BLinC asks the court to stop this religious discrimination and allow it to choose leaders who embrace its mission, just like every other student group on campus. Becket, a legal organization that specializes in religious liberty, is representing the student group.
BLinC is a small student organization that gives Christian students a forum for discussing how to incorporate their beliefs in the competitive business world. Like many religious groups, its members also serve others because of their religious beliefs. On Sept. 1, the university told BLinC it could select leaders who affirm its beliefs, so long as those beliefs were clearly stated so students would be aware of them. But after BLinC added a statement of its religious beliefs to its campus webpage, the university responded by kicking it off campus shortly before Thanksgiving.
“This is 2017, not 1984,” Jacob Estell, the student president of BLinC, told Becket in a statement. “Our beliefs weren’t made by us, and they can’t be changed by us either — certainly not just to satisfy Orwellian government rules.”
What makes this discrimination so particularly obvious and egregious is that there are a plethora of other groups, of all different themes and sizes, on campus all functioning with their own particular focus and within their own guidelines. Just like most colleges and universities, there are more than 500 student groups at the university with distinct missions, creating an intellectually and culturally rich campus environment.
Fraternities and sororities can limit membership to men and women. Pro-choice groups can reject students who are pro-life and vice versa. Feminist groups may require members to support their cause. And environmental groups can choose leaders who support theirs. The Feminist Union requires its members to support birth control and abortion. Imam Madhi, a Sunni Muslim student group, requires its officers to accept Islam. Hawks for Choice is a pro-choice group. All of these groups are still active on campus. But even though BLinC allows anyone to join, the university is discriminating against it for requiring its leaders to share its mission and beliefs.
“This is premeditated religious discrimination, plain and simple,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel at Becket.“A state school cannot demand a change to students’ faith any more than the U.S. President could demand a change to the Bible.”
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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