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Court rules that University of Iowa must give religious groups equal treatment

School had previously targeted religious groups on campus

A campus religious group at the University of Iowa won a smashing victory today when a court ruled that the school must stop discriminating against them and offer them equal treatment on par with other student organizations.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled that “the University of Iowa illegally targeted religious groups for requiring their leaders to believe in and follow their faith,” according to a press release from the Becket law firm.

The lawsuit in question was brought by the group Business Leaders in Christ, which argued that it had been unfairly targeted by the university for requiring its members to profess and adhere to the Christian faith. A gay student had complained to the university about the group because it would not permit him to hold a group leadership position so long as he pursued same-sex sexual relationships.

The club was ordered to “revise its statement of faith and develop related questions that did not involve the applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” When the group refused, they were stripped of their official status at the university. The school justified this on the grounds of its “human rights” policy.

In its press release, Becket said that the court today “ruled that the university must ends its unequal treatment of religious student organizations.” The school had also kept a “watch list of 32 groups,” all of them religious, “that it had placed on probation simply for requiring its leaders to follow their beliefs,” the law firm said.

“As a governmental body bound by the First Amendment, the university should have never tried to get into the game of playing favorites in the first place, and it is high time for it to stop now,” Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said.

The court held that the university “violated BLinC’s First Amendment rights to free speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion.”

The school’s Human Rights Policy “promotes valuable goals for both the University and society at large. There is no fault to be found with the policy itself,”  the court declared.

“But the Constitution does not tolerate the way Defendants chose to enforce the Human Rights Policy. Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which Defendants have failed to withstand.”

Read the court’s decision here.

MORE: Iowa Christian club refuses to back down: ‘We have not caved’

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