WASHINGTON – University of Iowa officials were put on notice today after a Christian student group asked a federal appeals court to hold them accountable for targeting and booting the group off campus because it requires its leaders to follow its religious beliefs. In BLinC v. University of Iowa, school officials at the University of Iowa kicked Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) off campus and put it on a religious watchlist for simply requiring its leaders to sign a statement of faith.
Setting the bar for double standards, the University of Iowa allows fraternities to remain single-sex and allows non-religious groups to limit their leaders (and even members) to students who share their mission. Last year, after the University of Iowa admitted that it knowingly targeted and deregistered BLinC and other religious groups—and, in fact, kept a watch list of 32 religious student groups—a district court ruled that the University must end its targeting of religious student organizations.
“This is a textbook case of religious discrimination. The University kicked BLinC off campus because of its beliefs, while another group with opposing beliefs was left untouched. And that is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “BLinC has been dragged through the court system for years over what should be common sense for any group: choosing leaders that follow the group’s beliefs.”
The University of Iowa’s treatment of BLinC is part of a larger and ongoing pattern of targeting. After kicking BLinC off-campus, the University deregistered 10 other religious groups, including the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, the Imam Mahdi Muslim organization, the Latter-day Saint Student Association, and the Sikh Awareness Club, for the same reason. Ultimately 32 religious groups were targeted by the University by being put on a watchlist. This past summer, in Our Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey-Berru, the Supreme Court reaffirmed decades of precedent and sent a clear message that religious groups must be free to choose their leaders according to their faith. The Eighth Circuit should follow suit.
Listen to oral arguments: