A federal judge will hear arguments Friday on whether a Christian student group at the University of Iowa can remain on campus after barring an openly gay member from a leadership spot.
Business Leaders in Christ sued the university when the institute deregistered the student group in November 2017.
The group will make its case, brought by the Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, to U.S. District Judge Stephanie M. Rose in Des Moines over the phone because of severe winter weather affecting much of the Midwest this week.
The university has argued that the group violated its human rights policy. When Business Leaders in Christ charged that other university student groups had similar requirements, the university investigated and banned 38 others.
They included the Sikh Awareness Club, the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, the Imam Mahdi Organization and the Latter-day Saint Student Association.
Another, the InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, also represented by Becket, filed its own lawsuit against the university in August. Since then, the university has temporarily reinstated the groups, pending the outcome of the litigation.
Last January, Rose issued a preliminary ruling in favor of allowing the student organization to return to campus.
The U.S. Justice Department weighed in with a brief in December, arguing that the university failed to uphold the First Amendment rights of the Business Leaders in Christ. The university based its action on the group’s “Statement of Faith,” which might be “unwelcoming” to certain students, the brief said.
The student group said it just wants to be reinstated as an organization on campus without compromising its religious beliefs.
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