Just one week after the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship student group filed a lawsuit against the University of Iowa, the school has agreed to temporarily reinstate InterVarsity and other religious groups that the university recently recognized as discriminatory.
InterVarsity was just one of the 40 student groups the university purged, including the Sikh Awareness Club, the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, the Imam Mahdi Organization, and the Latter-day Saint Student Association. The agreement obtained by InterVarsity will temporarily reinstate all deregistered religious groups until the end of pending litigation with the school.
As Metro Vocie reported in July, the university asked its student groups to ensure that their governing documents include what it calls a human rights clause. If they failed to do so, the university “deregistered” them, which means they’re no longer able to operate as an official campus organization and utilize privileges like meeting space and access to campus activity fairs to recruit students.
According to a press release, InterVarsity had been a part of campus life at the University of Iowa for decades, welcoming all students as members. But in June, the school abruptly ordered the group to drop its religious leadership standards within two weeks, insisting that the group could not even “strongly encourage” its leaders to embrace its faith. Many other groups faced the same demand.
“This win is a win for everyone—Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs alike,” Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket, which is handling the litigation against the university, said in the press release.
“Everyone loses when state officials pick who leads students in prayer and worship, and everyone wins when religious students can make those decisions for themselves. Here’s hoping the courts make the University’s temporary patch into a permanent fix,” the press release continued.
As a Christian student group, InterVarsity hosts Bible studies and worship services, sponsors discussions on important issues and participates in community service activities such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and the Johnson County C.R.O.P. Hunger Walk.
Following the end of the school year, the university deemed InterVarsity’s religious leadership requirement “non-compliant” with new school policy, while giving a pass to the leadership and membership restrictions set by other non-religious student groups, such as sports clubs, fraternities, and political organizations.
“As we all prepare to head back to school, we’re excited to know InterVarsity will also be back on campus and part of the community we love,” Katrina Schrock, student president of InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, said in the press release. “These last few months have been crazy, but we’re grateful to be able to get back to focusing on meeting and serving the new graduate and professional students in our Hawkeye community.”
A final decision in the case could come next spring.