Charisma Caucus

Gay Rights vs. Religious Freedom: Who Wins?

School mascot Herky the Hawk stands in front of the Old Capitol Museum at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, Iowa.
School mascot Herky the Hawk stands in front of the Old Capitol Museum at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, Iowa. (REUTERS/Koh Gui Qing)

A Christian student group at the University of Iowa is suing the school for kicking it off campus after the club denied a leadership position to a student who is gay.

On Thursday, a federal judge will hold a hearing to evaluate the request from Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) to have its on-campus privileges reinstated. Those privileges include participation in student recruitment fairs and access to campus meeting space and funds from student activity fees. The university holds its next recruitment fair Jan. 24-25, and the 10-member club says the event is "crucial to its existence."

The lawsuit pits a university policy barring discrimination based on sexual orientation against the religious beliefs of BLinC.

The group says its membership is open to everyone but that its leaders must affirm a statement of faith that rejects homosexual behavior.

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The university says it respects the right of students, faculty and staff to practice the religion of their choice but does not allow discrimination of any kind.

Marcus Miller, a student member of Business Leaders in Christ, filed a complaint with the university last February after the group denied his request to serve as its vice president. Miller says his request was rejected after he disclosed he was gay.

The group says it denied Miller's request because he did not accept the club's religious beliefs and would not follow them.

Students at the university's Tippie College of Business founded Business Leaders in Christ in 2015. They meet weekly for Bible study, to organize service projects and to mentor students on "how to continually keep Christ first in the fast-paced business world."

The group's lawsuit says it "cannot and will not ask leaders who do not share its beliefs to lead members in prayer or to convey those beliefs."

"Every organization to exist has to be able to select leaders who embrace its mission," the group's attorney, Eric Baxter with the nonprofit law firm Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said. "You would never ask an environmental group to have a climate denier as their leader. It's the same thing here."

The case is yet another example of a Christian student organization at a secular university fighting to keep its status as a recognized student group with all the accompanying privileges.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA reports that more than half a dozen campuses no longer recognize InterVarsity chapters because of their biblical requirements for leaders.

Copyright The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc., All rights reserved.

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