The University of Iowa reversed its earlier decision to purge 39 student groups from campus after InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship sued.
This lawsuit is the second one the University of Iowa faced after attempting to deregister groups that don’t in their view “consistently and equally apply its Human Rights Policy.” The University agreed to temporarily reinstate InterVarsity and all other groups that the University had recently deregistered according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the legal group that represented InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
The agreement obtained by InterVarsity will temporarily reinstate all deregistered religious groups until the end of pending litigation with the University. A final decision is expected as early as next spring.
InterVarsity had been a part of campus life for decades, welcoming all students as members. But in June, the University abruptly ordered the group to drop its religious leadership standards within two weeks, insisting that the group could not even “strongly encourage” its leaders to embrace its faith. Many other groups faced the same demand. And in late July, the University officially derecognized InterVarsity and almost 39 other groups including the Sikh Awareness Club, the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, the Imam Mahdi Organization, and the Latter-day Saint Student Association. But just one week after InterVarsity sued over the mass purge, and just hours after the group warned it would need to file a motion for a temporary restraining order to participate in important student organization activities, the University reversed course to allow all religious groups back on campus.
“This win is a win for everyone—Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs alike,” Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket, said. “Everyone loses when state officials pick who leads students in prayer and worship, and everyone wins when religious students can make those decisions for themselves. Here’s hoping the courts make the University’s temporary patch into a permanent fix.”
The student group hosts weekly Bible studies, monthly meetings that include prayer and worship, and discussions on important religious and social issues on campus. It also serves the local, state, and global communities by hosting and participating in community service initiatives, including Oxfam and the C.R.O.P. Hunger Walk to combat global poverty. InterVarsity has been the top fundraiser for the C.R.O.P. Walk in six of the seven past years. The University of Iowa has previously recognized the student group for its outstanding service to the student body.
“As we all prepare to head back to school, we’re excited to know InterVarsity will also be back on campus and part of the community we love,” Katrina Schrock, student president of InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, said. “These last few months have been crazy, but we’re grateful to be able to get back to focusing on meeting and serving the new graduate and professional students in our Hawkeye community.”
Update: Only 22 of the 39 student groups impacted by the purge are “faith-based” and the article has been edited to reflect that. You can see the list of impacted groups here.