UI expels Christian student club over leadership requirement

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A Christian student organization on the University of Iowa campus, Business Leaders in Christ, has been removed as a recognized campus organization following findings of discrimination in the group.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Business Leaders in Christ had offered then University of Iowa sophomore Marcus Miller a leadership position in the organization, then rescinded the offer upon Miller revealing that he was gay.

Miller said he filed a formal discrimination complaint against the organization on Feb. 20, and the UI found the claim against Business Leaders in Christ had merit.

UI Media Relations Director Anne Bassett said in an email to The Daily Iowan that the UI does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, in accordance with law.

“The University of Iowa respects the right of students, faculty, and staff to practice the religion of their choice. During orientation, new students are invited to learn about the 20 religious student organizations on campus and the worship opportunities in the surrounding community,” Bassett said.

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“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. The UI recently found Business Leaders in Christ violated the university’s Human Rights Policy and the Iowa Civil Rights Act.”

Bassett said that membership and participation in an organization must be open to all students and that “The organization will guarantee that equal opportunity and equal access to membership, programming, facilities, and benefits shall be open to all persons.”

A 2010 Supreme Court case addressed a similar issue regarding campus ministries and the LBGTQ community in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.

The Christian Legal Society had required members and officers to sign a statement of faith agreeing to live by certain principles including the belief that sex was between a man and a woman. In response to this restriction based on sexuality, Hastings Law School denied it registered student-organization status because it conflicted with the school’s anti-discrimination policy.

The eventual ruling was that it wasn’t unconstitutional for a student organization to require leaders to hold particular religious beliefs, universities do not have to recognize those organizations.

Revoking the status of an organization can cause the group to lose university support and resources.

UISG allocated funds for fiscal 2017 for Business Leaders in Christ.

This story will be updated as it develops.

— Naomi Hofferber

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