This Christian Student Group Was Discriminated Against. It Could Soon Be Vindicated.
A Christian student group
at Wayne State University will ask a federal court on Wednesday to require
public universities to treat religious student groups equally to other campus
This particular case, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship v. Wayne State
University, demonstrates the many
ways progressives twist the concept of discrimination to serve their own
In 2017, Wayne State
University revoked InterVarsity’s status as a student organization because the
group expressly required its leaders to embrace the Christian faith in
alignment with the group’s purpose. Up to that point, the group had been
operating alongside dozens of other student groups for 75 years.
No matter. The university
said InterVarsity’s leadership requirements violated school policy—that they
were, in essence, discriminatory.
To the ordinary observer,
it would seem obvious for Christians to require Christian leadership in a
Christian group. That’s hardly discriminatory, but in fact a normal standard,
just as sororities requiring members to be women isn’t discriminatory—it’s just
But that’s not the stance
Wayne State chose to take in 2017. The school’s shift prompted InterVarsity,
along with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, to seek intervention through
the legal system, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
As the case proceeded,
InterVarsity learned that Wayne State allows at least 90 student groups to make their own rules
for leaders—groups ranging from fraternities to the Quidditch Club. All of
these student groups select their own criteria for membership and are still free to meet as a
group anywhere on campus.
In the spring of 2018, Becket filed a motion for partial summary judgment, hoping to force Wayne to allow InterVarsity to host events on campus permanently.
Earlier this year, Wayne filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that while the group could continue its on-campus activities, it wouldn’t officially recognize InterVarsity if it continued to “discriminate” by requiring group leaders to be Christians.
In the motion, Wayne State said InterVarsity was seeking its “approval—and the privileges that come with it—to enforce an openly discriminatory leadership requirement in clear violation of the school’s non-discrimination policy.”
Wayne State also blasted InterVarsity’s faith requirements as somehow treating non-Christian students as “second-class citizens.”
In light of the lawsuit,
the school briefly decided it would allow the student group back on campus, but
that didn’t last. On Wednesday, Becket will ask for a permanent federal ruling
to ensure InterVarsity receives equal treatment under the law.
Wayne State’s claim of discrimination simply doesn’t hold water for any reasonable person. It seems more like an attempt to twist a popular buzzword to excuse the university’s own bigotry against a Christian group.
Unfortunately, discrimination of religious groups on college
campuses is increasingly common.
Last year, for instance, a Christian student group at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs brought a lawsuit because the school refused to grant it registered status for the same reason: It required its leadership to hold Christian beliefs.
The university ultimately agreed to make policy changes that included granting Ratio Christi registered status and allowing student clubs to require their leadership to promote the club’s purposes and hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission.
In another case, Chike Uzuegbunam, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College, had been sharing his faith with his peers by handing out religious literature on campus. A couple of campus employees informed him he had to stop because he was outside the speech zone.
he tried to reserve the speech zone, however, students complained, and the
campus stopped him again, informing him that his speech was “disorderly
conduct.” Attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom have filed a lawsuit, but
there hasn’t yet been a resolution.
This is a concerning trend on college campuses. The irony is that if anyone is discriminating at Wayne State, it’s the university, which is discriminating against InterVarsity for its religious values.
As a student group, it, too, has a right to free speech and free exercise under the First Amendment, just like every other student group.
Wayne State must not be allowed to discriminate.