The University of Iowa (UI) is facing a lawsuit for violating the First Amendment rights of a religious club on campus. After discovering that a Christian student organization was – gasp! – Christian, the school took aggressive measures to suppress the club.
The UI club in question is BLinC, Business Leaders in Christ, founded in 2014, within the University’s Tippie College of Business. UI demanded that the group modify their mission statement in 2016 after a gay student claimed that he was passed up for a leadership role because he was gay. The club refused, and the University de-registered the club.
BLinC, in their suit on Monday denied the allegation, saying that the student denied the leadership roles as “he expressly stated that he rejected BLinC’s beliefs and would not follow them.”
The Student Club, BLinC further said that it was strictly instructed by the university officials to amend the Statement of Fait, which goes on to make ‘the supremacy of Bible’ mandatory and to bring in an ‘acceptable plan’ to select the executives. When the club declined to comply, it lost its official status and was given the reason that it violated the Human Rights policy of the University and further the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
“The University’s attempt to tell BLinC how to define its faith and select its leaders constitutes religious animus and discrimination and violates clearly established federal and state law,” The lawsuit said.
A student group that has no official status with the university could not use the university facility nor is eligible to receive any funding from the university and also could not participate in the recruitment drives held in the campus.
The lawsuit also mentions the names of the Dean of Student – Lyn Redington, Thomas R. Baker, the assistant dean and the executive Director of The Iowa Memorial Union – William R. Nelson.
In their statement, the University Of Iowa confirmed the rights of its faculty, staff and the students to practice the religion of their own choices, and further added that they do not tolerate discrimination of any sort. But they went on by sticking to the fact that “when a voluntary student organization chooses to become a registered student organization, it must adhere to the mission of the university, the UI’s policies and procedures, and all local, state, and federal laws.”
Eric Baxter – from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is a non-profit legal institute from D.C. and is representing the student group, said that the University’s decision “premeditated religious discrimination, plain and simple. A state school cannot demand a change to students’ faith any more than the U.S. president could demand a change to the Bible.”
Another conservative student club called the Turning Point USA went on to sue the Arkansas State University – ASU, as they demand the school to finish the ‘speech zones’ policy.
The lawsuit says that that the University has strictly limited the freedom of speech and expression by creating these zones. Ashlyn Hoggard, who had filed the case, said that she was told by her administrator to stop the discussions with other students, as she tried and recruit her peers into her new chapter of the Turning Point as per the suit. She was further told that she was in violation of the policy that has been intact for almost two-decades – the policy leaves only 1 percent of the campus open on the weekdays, between 8 in the morning to 9 pm in the night, for all the flier distributions, demonstrations, recruitments and speeches.
The university’s Freedom of Expression Policy clearly reads, “Because the mission of Arkansas State University is education, the campus of Arkansas State University is not a public forum open for assembly and expression of free speech as are the public streets, sidewalks and parks.”
ASU, in another statement, went on to say that it “is committed to the First Amendment with policies and procedures that are designed to further that right and not restrict.”