New lawsuit against University of Iowa has both sides claiming discrimination

It's religious freedoms versus gay rights in an Iowa legal showdown

by Alexa Liautaud
Jan 17 2018, 12:03am

A new lawsuit centered around the University of Iowa has two sides claiming the other is guilty of discrimination, pitting religious freedoms against gay rights.

A conservative Christian student group known as the Leaders of the Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) is suing the University of Iowa, claiming religious discrimination after it was kicked off campus for denying a gay student a leadership position.

The BLinC claims that all students on campus are welcome to join the group, but requires those who are appointed leaders support its religious beliefs — which includes the outright rejection homosexuality.

Specifically, the group "cannot and will not ask leaders who do not share its beliefs to lead members in prayer or to convey those beliefs," according to the suit.

Though the BLinC says that it includes members of all sexual orientations, it also says the gay member of the group wasn’t eligible to be a leader “because he stated that he disagrees with, and would not try to live by, BLinC’s Christian principles,” the lawsuit states.

The university disagreed, saying that the BLinC’s statement of faith was in violation of both the school’s Human Rights policy and the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

“The University of Iowa respects the right of students, faculty, and staff to practice the religion of their choice,” the university explained in a statement. “However, 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.

As a result, University of Iowa officials say, they removed BLinC as a student group in November, meaning that its members no longer had university benefits like being able to participate in recruitment fairs, reserve classrooms, or receive fundings.

The legal battle will begin in front of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa on Thursday.