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U. Iowa deregisters dozens of student groups as latest move in battle against Christian club

The University of Iowa has enacted a scorched-Earth campaign against its students’ freedom of association, deregistering dozens of campus groups in the wake of a court ruling that found the public school guilty of selectively enforcing its human rights policy against one of its Christian clubs.

The ruling found campus leaders let other groups, such as Muslim ones, limit membership and leadership opportunities, while it cracked down on the faith-based group Business Leaders in Christ, or BLinC, which sought to bar openly gay students from leading the club.

The ruling also found that campus leaders had specifically targeted the Christian club BLinC and were not responding to a complaint, as campus officials had alleged.

In response to the ruling and pending litigation against it, the university has begun 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, The Gazette reports:

The groups that recently lost campus affiliation — and benefits that come with it, like access to university facilities and student fees — automatically were deregistered after failing to comply with a UI request they submit governing documents proving they observe the UI’s human rights policy. …

Although merits of the case have yet to be decided, with a jury trial scheduled for March 2019, a U.S. District Court judge agreed BLinC was singled out and ordered the university let the group remain on campus until the legal dispute is resolved. …

After the ruling, the university in late January and early February reviewed hundreds of its student organizations’ governing documents and found 356 were out of compliance by failing to have the full and correct human rights clause in their constitutions.

Some of the recently deregistered groups include the Sikh Awareness Club, Young Americans for Liberty, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Revolution Dance Company, Students for Human Rights, Japanese Students and Scholars Club, Chinese Student Christian Fellowship and the Bass Fishing Team, The Gazette reports.

“So if the Imam Mahdi organization refuses to affirm in writing that genderfluid atheists can join it and rise to leadership, it gets deregistered. Because LGBTs are the Chosen People,” points out Rod Dreher on the American Conservative.

“I’m sure that the Bass Fishing Team, and most of the other groups, will be willing and able to change their charters to do what the university requires. But it’s telling that instead of doing the liberal, tolerant thing, and leaving the Business Leaders in Christ alone, the diversity totalitarians at the university de-registered, or threatened to de-register, well over half the student groups on campus — not because those groups were actively discriminating, but because they didn’t affirmatively declare, in writing, that they wouldn’t discriminate,” Dreher wrote.

MORE: Black student calls for racially segregated events at U. Iowa

MORE: Jewish students threatened by U. Iowa’s rules against freedom of association

As to the fate of BLinC, apparently a jury will decide that matter in March.

In 2010, however, the Supreme Court in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez “held that universities may require student organizations that get university-provided benefits to accept all would-be members — including ones whose beliefs are at odds with the organization’s principles,” writes law Professor Eugene Volokh in the Washington Post.

Not everyone agreed with that decision, however.

“The majority consisted just of five Justices, the four liberals plus Justice Kennedy; the four other conservatives dissented,” Volokh reports.

“Yet even the majority made clear that, while reasonable and viewpoint-neutral restrictions on student group membership policies are constitutional, viewpoint-based restrictions on student group speech are unconstitutional,” he added.

“So if a group wants to express hostility to homosexuality — or hostility based on race, or sex, or religion, or what have you — it has the right to do that. And that’s so even if the group seeks access (on the same terms as other groups) to generally available university property, services, and subsidies. And on this point, the Court was unanimous: The liberal Justices plus Justice Kennedy took this view; the other conservative Justices would have just taken this further, to secure student groups’ right to choose their members as well as their right to choose their speech.”

MORE: U. Iowa hosts ‘all-male beauty pageant’ to support breast cancer

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.