A federal court not only found a university guilty of treating a religious student group unfairly, it ordered a vice president and other officers to pay out of their own pockets for discriminating against the group.
“In a nutshell, the court said Start treating religious groups fairly – period,” says attorney Daniel Blomberg of Becket, the law firm representing InterVarsity. “That’s what the court had already told the University of Iowa to do – and that’s exactly what the University of Iowa didn’t do when it went after InterVarsity and kicked them and other religious student groups, including Muslim and Sikh groups, off campus because they had religious leadership standards.”
At the same time, says the attorney, the university allowed other groups such as political groups, fraternities, and sororities to select their leaders and members based upon all sorts of criteria.
“All that InterVarsity has ever asked for is a fair shake, to be treated equally,” Blomberg continues, “and that’s precisely what the court said the university now has to do.”
Blomberg adds that the penalty against university officials sends a strong message.
“I’ve sat in depositions where students have cried as they’ve been attacked by the university’s lawyers asking questions and demanding why they’re discriminators,” he explains. “You can see it in the briefing that these universities file in court, where they accuse these kids of asking for a ‘special dispensation to discriminate.'”
That, says Blomberg, is the last thing that these young students want.
“All they’re asking for is to be treated fairly so they can have a student group that encourages them and strengthens their faith at a difficult time of life, a formative time of life; and to be treated the same way that other groups, much bigger groups, much more popular groups are already being treated,” the attorney continues.
“That’s reasonable – and any reasonable person should be supportive of that. And that’s exactly why it’s such a big deal that the ruling from the court in the University of Iowa case is going to help students across the country.”
The University of Iowa has the opportunity to appeal.
The Office of Strategic Communication at the University of Iowa issued the following statement to OneNewsNow:
“The University of Iowa has always respected the right of students, faculty, and staff to practice the religion of their choice. The case involving Business Leaders in Christ and later InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA and InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship presented a difficult issue for a public university as administrators tried to balance the rights of all individuals on campus.”
University administrators acted in good faith as they attempted to navigate the complicated interplay between the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the direct conflict with the Iowa Civil Rights Act.”
Copyright American Family News. Reprinted with permission.