US federal judge rules university behaved unlawfully in de-registering Christian union

12 April 2021

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A federal judge has ruled that it is unlawful for a Michigan university to bar a student Christian union from requiring its leaders to be professing Christians.

US District Judge Robert Cleland ruled that the policy of Wayne State University requiring that the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) allow non-Christians to join its leadership is unconstitutional and must be changed.

US District Judge Robert Cleland ruled that Wayne State University had discriminated against the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Judge Cleland added that it was “discriminatory” for the university to expect a Christian student organisation to appoint non-Christians into positions of leadership.

Other student groups, Cleland argued, were free to set restrictions on leadership or membership based on “sex, gender identity, political partisanship, ideology, creed [or] ethnicity”, but this “small group of Christians were denied those same benefits because they required their leaders to be Christian”.

Wayne State de-registered the IVCF in 2017 on the grounds that its policy of restricting leadership positions to professing Christians breached the university’s anti-discrimination policy. The Christian group was re-registered in 2018 but the university maintained its policy.

Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented IVCF, said, “The law is crystal clear: Universities can’t kick religious student groups off campus just because they choose leaders who share their faith.”

“Unless Wayne State changes its rules, InterVarsity is going to have to worry every year whether or not they will be kicked off again,” Windham added.

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