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University of Iowa derecognizes Christian club because of ‘sexual moral conduct’ rules for leaders: suit

They must avoid ‘sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman’

The University of Iowa pulled a “bait and switch” on a Christian student club by asking it to clarify its beliefs and then revoking its club status when it replied honestly, according to the club’s lawyers.

Business Leaders in Christ, created by Tippie College of Business students, is suing the university in federal court for violating its First Amendment rights.

A former club member claimed he was denied a leadership position owing to his sexual orientation, but the club argued that it rejected his application because he rejected important parts of its Christian beliefs and would not support those beliefs as a club leader.

The university told The College Fix the club’s action violates its policy on “human rights” as well as the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

“When a voluntary student organization chooses to become a registered student organization, it must adhere to the mission of the university, the UI’s policies and procedures, and all local, state, and federal laws,” Anne Bassett, media relations director, wrote in an email.

UI’s Human Rights Policy says the university expects there to be no “differences in the treatment of persons” based on their sexual orientation in “extracurricular life and activities.” State law bans discrimination against students in extracurricular programs based on their sexual orientation.

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Formed in 2014 with a goal of strengthening one another’s faith and using their faith in the business world, the student club still holds weekly meetings, small group discussions and Bible study.

To serve in club leadership, applicants are required to affirm and live out Business Leaders in Christ’s religious beliefs, which include “avoiding any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman.”

In April 2016, then-President Hannah Thompson met with the unnamed student, who wanted to apply for a vice president position whose duties include leading prayer and Bible study, according to the suit.

The student disclosed to Thompson he was gay and he questioned how his orientation related to his Christian faith. Thompson told him she would need to discuss his candidacy with the executive board, but said he could still participate in the club.

Before she brought his question to the board, Thompson asked the student if he would follow BLC’s religious beliefs on “sexual moral conduct,” and he said “he did not and that he intended to pursue same-sex relationships,” according to the suit.

Because the unnamed student did not agree with the club’s view on the “Bible’s guiding authority and its teaching on sexual conduct, and did not seem willing to confess and repent of” his “sinful conduct,” the board decided he was not eligible for a leadership position.

MORE: LGBTQ students demand Christian college celebrate ‘panromantic’ identity

“No organization can exist if it doesn’t embrace its mission,” Eric Baxter, lead counsel for the club’s lawyers at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told The Fix in a phone interview.

“We wouldn’t ask the feminist group on campus to select a men’s right[s] activist as its leader, or ask the pro-choice group who isn’t pro-life [to select a pro-life student] as their leader,” he said.

The student who sought the vice president position filed a complaint Feb. 20 with the university, saying BLC rejected him “due to my being openly gay,” according to the lawsuit, which does not specify the type of complaint and who received it.

Who’s next, the women’s volleyball team?

UI’s guidelines for student organizations let them assemble with students who share their beliefs, participate in club activities and join clubs as members based on those shared beliefs:

It is the policy of the University that all registered student organizations be able to exercise free choice of members on the basis of their merits as individuals without restriction in accordance with the University Policy on Human Rights. The University acknowledges the interests of students to organize and associate with like-minded students, therefore any individual who subscribes to the goals and beliefs of a student organization may participate in and become a member of the organization.

Religious student organizations are allowed to require applicants to affirm their statement of faith as a condition of membership, without violating the Human Rights Policy, according to the lawsuit.

MORE: Students host safe space in response to pro-traditional marriage talk

Baxter said the policy clearly isn’t enforced against sex-specific student organizations such as the men’s football team and women’s volleyball team, despite the policy’s prohibition of “differences in the treatment of persons because of” their sex. The policy does not appear to exempt any extracurricular program.

“Telling a religious group how it should believe and what kind of leaders it picks is a gross violation of the First Amendment,” Baxter said.

Christian student club sues University of Iowa for derecognizing it over ‘sexual moral conduct’ rules by The College Fix on Scribd

Dean ‘did not deny’ the club would lose benefits of recognition

Constance Shriver Cervantes, a compliance coordinator in the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Office, started an investigation in response to the unnamed student’s complaint.

She concluded June 30 that the student was denied the position because “he was gay and might pursue a relationship as a gay person,” according to the lawsuit.

The university told the club Sept. 1 it would close the investigation if the club clarified its religious beliefs in its constitution, and six days later BLC submitted a revised constitution.

William Nelson, executive director of the Iowa Memorial Union, rejected the revised constitution Oct. 19 because it was not in compliance with the Human Rights Policy.

He gave the club two weeks to revise its statement of faith and develop related questions that did not involve the applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or else the club would lose its university recognition, according to the lawsuit.

MORE: No documented complaints for most Christian colleges on LGBT ‘shame list’

“It was a total bait and switch. They told our clients to clarify their beliefs [so that] they would be able to stay on campus,” Baxter told The Fix. “When our clients did that they were totally shocked and surprised a university would penalize them for their beliefs.”

The club appealed Nelson’s decision to Lyn Redington, the dean of students at the university, saying it was not supported by facts and should be annulled, according to the lawsuit.

“It is particular[ly] absurd that they are saying BLC is violating the Human Rights Policy when everybody is welcome to be a member of the club and [it] only screen[s] leaders for religion,” Baxter said.

Redington agreed with Nelson’s decision and revoked BLC’s club status. The dean “did not deny” that the club “would be denied access to the benefits that are afforded to recognized student groups,” such as school funding, on-campus recruitment fairs or use of facilities, according to the suit. Redington simply said the club could continue to “exist on campus.”

Baxter believes this case is an example of blatant religious discrimination because the university is telling BLC it needs to change its religious beliefs and its criteria for leaders if it wants to remain registered on campus.

MORE: Christian clubs drop Christian requirement to get back into Cal State

IMAGE: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Zachery Schmidt is a senior at Western Washington University where he is majoring in political science and public relations. In his free time, Zach enjoys exercising, reading and writing.

Add to the Discussion

  • Steve

    I’d be willing to bet the student in question joined the group and asked to run for a leadership position for the sole purpose of destroying them; which the College gladly accommodated.

    I’m glad they’re suing, people need to fight for their rights.

    • Tatiana Covington

      And people will walk all over you if you give them a hundredth of a chance.

  • renojmc

    These vile sodomites are a cancer on our society, yet the PC crowd dictates to us that we must applaud their obvious depravity.

    • Sally

      Christ died for them too…hate the sin, not the sinner.

      • JTLiuzza

        This piece of work went after this club specifically because it is Christian. That is what sodomites are: perverted destroyers and the enemy of all that is good. Pray for enemies? Of course. Then fight them and their filth with everything you have.

  • Sailorboy

    These actions against clubs or groups we would consider to be wholesome is just more radical left dribble.

  • rnagel

    Why don’t they, as a group, join a small liberal group and then gut its constitution and turn it into a group which is 180 degrees from that which it originally was? Sort of sauce for the goose. As soon as the university changes their policy to allow the liberal groups to deny membership and leadership to those who oppose their reason for being they can jump in with their group and use those rules to solidify their position.

  • rogerthatokay

    UI’s Human Rights Policy says the university expects there to be no “differences in the treatment of persons” based on their sexual orientation in “extracurricular life and activities.”?

    Tell us, then, UI, how we treat these “sexual orientations” thrust upon up by you nihilistic democrats:

    -1/15/15 mirror.co.uk Woman marries a roller coaster. She is a self-proclaimed ‘objectum sexual’ which means she has romantic feelings for inanimate objects.

    -2/26/15 dailymail.co.uk Facebook users who don’t fit any of the 58 gender identity options offered by the social media giant are now being given a rather big 59th option: fill in the blank.

    -4/20/16 dailymail.co.uk Now children as young as FOUR are asked to choose what gender they are before they start school – with the option of being something other than male or female

    -wtsp.com ‘Transracial’ man born white feels like he is Filipino
    Ja Du is part of a small, but growing community of people who considers themselves transracial. It refers to someone born one race, but identifies with another. Sound weird? Not to them. Ja Du says he grew up enjoying Filipino food, events and the overall culture.

    -2/13/17 abcnews.go.com “There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, … The following are the 58 gender options identified by ABC News…”

    -11/23/17 khaleejtimes.com Dubai “One day, Sophia hopes to start a family, have a child, make friends, be famous and have a career. These all sound like hopes and dreams of a regular human being. Well, not really – these are the ambitions of a robot.”

    -12/5/17 insideedition.com Love at First Light! Woman Gets Engaged to Her Chandelier: ‘I Love Kissing and Cuddling Lumiere’

    -12/15/17 cnsnews.com An entire family – man, woman, son and daughter – in Arizona is transgender.
    The father identifies as a woman. His fiancée, the mother-to-be, identifies as a man. The son considers himself a girl and, of course, the daughter thinks she’s actually a boy. An entire transgender family, all under one roof.
    ——
    Who said that?

    “Whom the gods would destroy they first make insane.”

    • Tatiana Covington

      How do we know that these aren’t just all dead-pan put-ons trying to pull your leg?

      • rogerthatokay

        Ten years ago we would have thought these absurdities were merely “pulling your leg”:

        -4/20/16 dailymail.co.uk Now children as young as FOUR are asked to choose what gender they are before they start school – with the option of being something other than male or female

        -2/13/17 abcnews.go.com “There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, … The following are the 58 gender options identified by ABC News…”

        -12/15/17 cnsnews.com An entire family – man, woman, son and daughter – in Arizona is transgender.
        The father identifies as a woman. His fiancée, the mother-to-be, identifies as a man. The son considers himself a girl and, of course, the daughter thinks she’s actually a boy. An entire transgender family, all under one roof.

  • rogerthatokay

    If you’re wondering why this insanity rules our “education” system:

    -http://www.opensecrets.org/org… All-Time Donors, 1989-2012, public teacher unions:
    The National Education Association gave $43,613,263: 71% went to democrats, 5% to Republicans.
    The American Federation of Teachers [AFT pres. Weingarten was paid $557,875 in 2014] gave $34,698,466: 86% went to democrats, 0% to Republicans.

    -http://www.opensecrets.org/ove… 2014 Top Organization Campaign Contributions, All Federal Contributions: Number 3 was the National Education Association which gave 99.2% to democrats.

    -2/7/11 http://www.nytimes.com/2011… Democrat psychology professors outnumber Republicans 12 to 1. Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

    -5/20/12 http://articles.latimes.com

    “Perhaps this is not surprising given that the tilt to the left among college faculty members has been growing nationwide for several decades. At UC Berkeley, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans even in the hard sciences had grown to 10 to 1 in 2004, many times what it was 30 years ago, according to a study by Daniel Klein and Andrew Western. In the humanities and social sciences the ratios were 17 to 1 and 21 to 1, respectively.”

    -11/28/12 foxnews.com http://www.foxnews.com/poli… 96% of Ivy League professors’ donations went to Obama,

    -5/19/13 http://articles.latimes.com… Commencement speakers: Conservatives need not apply. A look at the data suggests that at graduation ceremonies on U.S. college and university campuses, it’s liberals only.
    “It turns out there is quantitative proof academia, Hollywood, and the media actually are dominated [hugely] by liberals.”

    -5/30/14 http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/… ex-Mayor Bloomberg warned in his Harvard commencement speech: “Today, on many campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species,” he told the crowd, adding that “the forces of repression [at universities] appear to be stronger now than they have been since the 1950s.” He noted that, in 2012, “96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama…”

    -January 1017 http://www.bostonmagazine.c… How Liberal Professors Are Ruining College: In New England, they outnumber conservatives 28 to 1.

    ———-

    Joseph Stalin: “Education is a weapon whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”

    Vladimir Ilyich Lenin: “Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.”

  • Dixie

    I wonder if this applies to ANY religious group who aren’t Jewish or Christian. Random question, when was the last time a Christian or a Jew stoned their daughter to death for being raped or threw their gay son off a rooftop?

  • Amos3

    The Muslim Student Association at the University of Iowa requires adherence to the Quran with all that it entails. Yet, the University administration has no problem with that. The University of Iowa’s administration reeks with hypocrisy and double dealing. The individual administrator or administrators involved in the decision to decertify this Christian organization need to be terminated with extreme prejudice.

  • Russ

    Steve is right about doing this on purpose – in California they do that to Christian Counselors – they look for Christian in the agency name. They call them drive-by lawsuits.