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Iowa Christian club refuses to back down: ‘We have not caved to the university’s wishes’

Organization remains defiant in the wake of school’s inclusion mandate

The University of Iowa recently began cracking down on campus clubs that fail to comply with its new “human rights” policy.

But one Christian student group continues to stand up to administrators’ demands, taking the school to court to defend its right to freedom of association even as other campus clubs quickly agree to the university’s mandatory policy.

“The University is discriminating against [us] because of our religious beliefs, while allowing other student groups to form around their shared values and beliefs,” Jacob Estell, a spokesman for Business Leaders in Christ, told The College Fix.

“We have not changed our mind or caved in to the University’s wishes,” Estell said.

The controversy began last year when the University of Iowa stripped Business Leaders in Christ of its official status after the group affirmed its religious beliefs to campus officials, including traditional Christian beliefs about sexuality and same-sex relationships.

Following a court ruling in January that held that the school had unfairly discriminated against the Christian group, the university undertook a “scorched-Earth campaign” against student groups on campus, “deregistering any and all student clubs that has not signed its policy that requires the groups to open their membership — and leadership positions — to anyone, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Estell, the spokesman for the Christian group, told The Fix that his organization has “always included the anti-discrimination text in our Constitution.”

“Anyone is, and always has been, welcome to be a member of BLinC. We only ask that our leaders align with our mission, just like the Republican and Democratic student groups, the pro-life and pro-choice student groups, the fraternities and sororities, and every other group on campus does,” he said.

Other student groups, such as the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, swiftly complied with the university’s wishes, rewriting their policies to reflect the mandate to allow anyone, regardless of beliefs, to join and lead campus clubs.

“It was required for years, the statement was updated to reflect current social issues that affect our students on campus and in the community. We feel it is a great thing to update our laws and policies so that people can all partake in a just society, on and off campus,” the student group stated in a message to The College Fix. 

“Reading the human rights clause, we feel it supports our efforts as well,” the group said.

Other student groups affected by the university’s campaign include the Sikh Awareness Club, Young Americans for Liberty, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, none of which could be reached for comment in time for publication.

Meanwhile, a district court judge ordered the school to allow BLinC to remain active on campus until its trial to decide its fate, slated for March 2019.

The student Christian organization, meanwhile, remains defiant.

“What’s the point of student groups if those groups can’t define their own missions and select leaders who will support their goals?” Estell said. “That would be meaningless.”

MORE: Judge forces univ. to recognize Christians on same terms as Muslims

MORE: U. Iowa deregisters dozens of groups in battle against Christians

IMAGE: Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Ema Gavrilovic -- DePaul University