University of Iowa sued by student group ousted for being anti-LGBTQ

IOWA CITY — A student group that was ousted by the University of Iowa for discriminating against LGBTQ students is now suing the university.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported Wednesday that the group Business Leaders in Christ filed the suit on Monday. The suit says the university violated Higher Education and Iowa Human Rights acts after the school requested the group’s “statement of faith” be updated to comply with the university’s human rights policy.

From the Press-Citizen:

UI’s revocation of registration stems from a 2016 complaint by a former member who, after seeking vice presidency of Business Leaders in Christ, submitted a complaint to UI leadership that said he was denied that role because he is openly gay.

The group claims it did not discriminate based on the student’s sexual orientation, but that leaders are “required to agree with and strive to abide by” the group’s religious beliefs, “which include avoiding any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The school revoked registration after an investigation and conversations between the group and the university. It meant the group couldn’t participate in on-campus recruitment fairs, use campus facilities or receive funding and benefits with other campus groups.

UI Media Relations Director Anne Bassett told the newspaper in a statement that  the university said it “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind in accordance with federal and state law.” The statement also said voluntary student organizations had to follow the school mission, polices, procedures and laws.

One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel issued a statement in support of the University of Iowa on Wednesday. “As a registered student organization utilizing funding and resources from the University of Iowa, Business Leaders in Christ had an obligation to follow not only the policies and procedures of the university, but local and state law as well,” Hoffman-Zinnel said. “Both the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the University of Iowa’s Human Rights Policy are crystal clear. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is unacceptable at a publicly funded institution.”

The nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the student group, according to the Press-Citizen. The Becket Fund also represented Hobby Lobby in the Supreme Court case that allowed private corporations to refuse birth control coverage on the basis of religious objection. The case asks the court to compel the university to reinstate the group’s official recognition and asks for nominal damages.