The University of Iowa told a conservative Christian group that it can no longer meet on campus after it barred a gay individual from serving in a leadership position. The group then filed a lawsuit against the university, setting the stage for a battle between religious liberty and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In December, the university suspended the group’s activities after a gay student was denied a leadership position after he was unable to affirm a statement of faith that rebukes homosexuality, according to Fox News.
The group argues that doing so falls within their rights according to the laws guaranteeing freedom or religion. But the university explicitly prohibits any discrimination based on sexual orientation. The university attests that the group has violated the school’s Human Rights Policy and the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
The group was founded in 2015 and contains 10 members. After action was taken against them, they lost their license to operate, which means they are no longer able to reserve campus meeting spaces or attend student recruitment fairs, and no longer have access to funds from student activity fees.
It had been meeting weekly for a Bible study and had focused on service projects to teach students “how to continually keep Christ first in the fast-paced business world.”
The group’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Davenport, says it “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 Guardian.
The controversy began last February when Marcus Miller filed a complaint to the university that he was not allowed to serve as the group’s vice president because he was gay. The group explained that he was not following its Christian beliefs that stated all leaders in the group must affirm a statement of faith that they “embrace, not reject, their God-given sex” and agree that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
“Every other sexual relationship beyond this is outside of God’s design and is not in keeping with God’s original plan for humanity,” the group’s statement of faith says.
The university has said that group’s must “carefully weigh the compelling interest or religious freedom on the one hand and the compelling interest of preventing discrimination on the other hand.”
Eric Baxter, the group’s attorney from the nonprofit law firm Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said, “Every organization to exist has to be able to select leaders who embrace its mission. You would never ask an environmental group to have a climate denier as their leader. It’s the same thing here.”
In recent news, a gospel music star has passed away at the age of 74. His hit song inspired millions.