InterVarsity group members at the University of Iowa

The University of Iowa lost in federal district court last January when they attempted to kick Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) off campus last fall. U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose found that the University did not “consistently and equally apply its Human Rights Policy.” 

Business Leaders in Christ were deregistered as a student group because they required their leaders to agree to the group’s statement of faith.

“Because BLinC will likely suffer a loss of First Amendment freedoms, including its freedoms of speech and expressive association, the Court concludes BLinC has shown it will be irreparably harmed absent an injunction,” Rose also concluded.

Instead of accommodating faith-based groups, the University of Iowa instead decided to double-down on their discriminatory policy by deregistering all student groups who expect their leaders to abide by their organization’s bylaws and policies. 

For 25 years, InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship has been part of campus life at the University of Iowa, a campus that features over 500 student groups. As a Christian group, InterVarsity fulfills its mission by providing a community where students can grow in their faith while pursuing their academic education. 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.

On June 1, 2018, following the end of the school year, the University of Iowa sent a notice to the school’s InterVarsity chapter, threatening the student group with deregistration. The University said the group’s policy that its leaders agree to their statement of faith, which is typical and reasonable for faith-based groups, was “non-compliant” with the university’s non-discrimination policies.  The University gave InterVarsity two weeks to change its constitution.

In July 2018, the University of Iowa officially deregistered InterVarsity, along with 38 other student groups —including the Sikh Awareness Club, the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, the Imam Mahdi Organization, Geneva Campus Ministry, and the Latter-day Saint Student Association. Deregistering a group effectively removes that organization from campus.

However, sports clubs, fraternities and sororities, and political and ideological groups can require their leaders (and members) to share their mission or their unique identity, and they were allowed to retain official student group status.

On Monday, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, on behalf of InterVarsity, sued the University of Iowa in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, defending InterVarsity’s right to require its leaders to believe in and live its religious mission. 

Read the complaint below:

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