An federal judge in Des Moines has ordered the temporary reinstatement of Business Leaders in Christ to the University of Iowa campus. From the news story:
A federal judge has ordered the University of Iowa to temporarily reinstate a conservative Christian group as a registered student organization, saying the university is denying the group its freedom of speech rights.
Business Leaders in Christ sued after the university in Iowa City revoked its campus registration in November, citing the group’s denial of a leadership position to a gay student who wouldn’t affirm a statement of faith rejecting homosexuality. The university says it respects religious rights but doesn’t tolerate discrimination.
In a temporary injunction order issued Tuesday, Judge Stephanie Rose says the university policy isn’t enforced uniformly. She cited the Imam Mahdi group which requires members to be Muslim and to respect its religious rules and practices.
Here’s the full PDF text of the judge’s order. And here are the especially interesting parts (see pages 25-28):
What is instructive regarding the CLS [Christian Legal Society] events in 2003 and 2004 is that they contradict the University’s claim at the hearing that it only reviews student organization constitutions when a complaint has been filed. There is no evidence that CLS’s student organization was the subject of any complaint, adding fuel to BLinC’s claim that Christian groups are subject to additional scrutiny.
Moreover, the constitution of the CLS chapter is not the only one in the current record. As previously noted, BLinC submits the constitutions of several organizations in an effort to show that other student organizations like Students for Life, the Korean American Student Association, and the University of Iowa Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance are permitted to organize around their missions and beliefs, though it cannot.
Another of these constitutions is that of the Imam Mahdi organization.. Imam Mahdi is a Muslim registered student organization. The organization’s constitution lists qualifications for membership. For full membership in the organization, an individual must be eighteen years or older and “[b]e Muslim, Shiea, and obtain the recommendation of two Members.” “The reason behind the recommendation is to be sure that the person who desires to join this organization as a full member is Muslim, Shiea, who respects the religion rules, and willing to practice the faith.”
Although not mentioned in its brief, BLinC did call attention to Imam Mahdi’s membership requirements in its November 2, 2017 letter to Dean Redington. The Court broached the subject of Imam Mahdi’s membership requirements at the hearing on BLinC’s motion. The University does not appear to have taken any action with respect to Imam Mahdi, despite its clear violation of the University’s Human Rights Policy.
At the hearing, Defendants’ only response was that the process is “complaint-driven.” The University’s registration policy and the established facts of the episode with CLS refute that contention. An organization’s proposed constitution and bylaws are reviewed with its registration form before an organization is granted registered status. As discussed above, CLS’s failure to include the Human Rights Policy in its constitution was noted during this review process and CLS’s application for registration was rejected.
Nevertheless, the Court must conclude on the current record that BLinC has shown that the University does not consistently and equally apply its Human Rights Policy. This raises an issue regarding whether BLinC’s viewpoint was the reason it was not allowed to operate with membership requirements that the University had determined violated the policy, while at the same time Imam Mahdi was not subjected to any enforcement action.
So this is good, right? The judge, an Obama appointee, demands that the university be fair in its enforcement.
Not so fast. As a lawyer following this case told me, Judge Rose’s ruling suggests that if the University of Iowa “would kick other groups off campus (including Islamic groups), then the policy would be OK. This could get interesting.”
I’m interested in the take First Amendment lawyers and law professors in this blog’s readership have.
I’m also interested to know whether privileging gay rights is so important to liberals that they’re willing to see Muslim student groups and other groups that don’t line up with the “Human Rights Policy” kicked off campus.
UPDATE: Reader Brendan says that the ongoing collapse of orthodoxy among professing American Christians on the subject of homosexuality is going to have serious legal implications for the orthodox:
The trouble, Rod, is that this unfortunately does impact the application of anti-discrimination law.
If it can be shown that most Christians do not believe homosexual activity is a sin, and that homosexual marriage is acceptable for Christians, then it becomes much harder for a Christian who *does* see these things as unacceptable or sinful on the basis of her faith, even if held sincerely, to convince a court (or bureaucrat) that their objection is truly “religious” in nature — again, because other people who share the same religion find the behavior unproblematic from their own religious perspective. The court or bureaucrat will tend to then see the more conservative/traditional believer’s perspective as being not rooted in religion (after all other people who believe in the religion are fine with the acts in question, perhaps the majority of people who believe in the religion) but rooted in animus which has extra-religious bases. Meaning you lose.
This is why the mass apostasy of Christians in the US on this issue is so problematic for traditional Christians. We will, as a result of this, lose legal protections — that is, their apostasy on this issue will strip us of legal protections for the orthodox views on these issues, as a practical matter. We will be permitted to hold our views, and to preach them in our churches, and enforce them there in a narrow and strict way that directly pertains to our liturgical services — but that’s it. That’s what’s coming, and the mass apostasy among non-traditional Christians is going to be the hammer, the main hammer, used against us in this regard.