A Christian organization at the University of Iowa had a legal win this week.
The University of Iowa has a human rights policy to which it holds registered student organizations. In this policy, it disallows students organizations from treating people different based on: “race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual.”
But several student organizations require that leaders and members adhere to traditional Christian values, which includes abstaining from sex outside of marriage as well as not engaging in same-sex relationships.
This week, a U.S. District Court ruled that the university cannot revoke the recognized status of registered student organizations who uphold Christian principles. This specific suit was brought by Business Leaders in Christ. In 2017, an openly gay student was denied a leadership position in BLinC.
Recognition of the university matters for several reasons: it allows an organization to participate in various university functions, it allows the organization to use campus space for meetings, it makes an organization eligible to apply for various types of university funding, among other benefits.
This is a win for all of the Christian organizations on campus. The university was selectively discriminating against faith-based organizations. All sorts of registered student organizations violate the Iowa policy, and are still allowed to exist. You have fraternities which only allow men, sororities which only allow women. Iowa has a registered Chinese student organization, which is only open to Chinese students. There’s a women’s a cappella group that only allows women.
But many people in our society hate the moral beliefs of Christianity, and so Christian groups are an easy target.
Gong forward, I fear that this is something we will continue to see: trying to overrule Christian values and Christians trying to live out those values by attempting to supersede Christian organizations and institutions with discrimination laws.
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.