Judge rules university must allow student group to reject gay student from leadership position

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the University of Iowa cannot take away a Christian student group’s registered status after it barred a gay student from a leadership role. 

U.S. District Judge Stephanie M. Rose granted a permanent injunction forcing the university to recognize Business Leaders in Christ as a registered student organization.

The university had claimed that the group violated its human rights policy by blocking a gay student from holding a leadership position.

In her ruling, Rose said the university didn’t enforce its policy equally by allowing other groups to limit membership based on protected characteristics, including race, gender and religion.{mosads}

“The Constitution does not tolerate the way defendants chose to enforce the human rights policy,” she said. “Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which the defendants have failed to withstand.” 

In a statement, Business Leaders in Christ member Jake Estell touted the group’s victory, writing that Rose’s decision reinforced “the commonsense idea that universities can’t target religious student groups for being religious.”

“We are grateful the court protected our rights today—to let us have the same right as all student groups to express our viewpoints freely on campus, and to be who we are,” he said.

A university spokesperson said in an email that officials are reviewing the ruling and will follow the court order.

“The university has maintained the registered status of all religious and faith-based groups allowing them full access to all benefits, funding, facilities, and resources that are offered to all other student organizations on campus,” the university said in a previous statement. “The University of Iowa does not tolerate discrimination of any kind in accordance with federal and state law.” 

Leaders of the student group must sign a “statement of faith” that says that sexual relationships should only be between a married husband and wife, according to court documents. 

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