Officials at the University of Iowa, who used totalitarian tactics to shut down a Christian Fellowship group, got quite a smack-down from a federal judge who ruled that their behavior was “ludicrous” and “baffling” and is holding officials personally responsible for their actions.
According to Fox News, Judge Stephanie M. Rose of the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa found that the University of Iowa and its officers violated the constitutional rights of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship when they kicked the group off-campus for insisting that leaders uphold Christian beliefs, even though the school allowed secular groups to have leadership requirements. The judge referred to their conduct as “ludicrous” and “incredibly baffling” during a recent hearing.
As a result, University officials are being made to pay “out of their own pockets” for discriminating against the group.
The conduct of the University officials certainly warranted this judgment. As Fox reports, not only did they kick the group off of campus after it had been there for over 25 years, it “froze its bank account, shut down its website and advertised that it was ‘defunct’ for lack of student interest, according to court documents. This violated the Christian group’s free speech and free exercise rights, the court ruled.”
Even more astonishing is the fact that this was the second time the University was hauled into court for violating the rights of Christians. Earlier this year, the Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) group, was challenged by the school when they denied a gay member a leadership position. The member expressly stated that he “rejected BLinC’s religious beliefs and would not follow them.” The group fought for their right to limit leadership to members who shared their Christian views and won the case in court.
University officials obviously didn’t learn their lesson.
“It’s rare for a federal judge to call out a public university for ‘ludicrous’ and ‘incredibly baffling’ violations of the First Amendment,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket, who represented InterVarsity and BLinC, to Fox News. “But it was necessary here. The court already told the University of Iowa to stop picking on one Christian student group. The University responded by doubling down and kicking out Christian, Muslim and Sikh groups. That was obviously wrong. And it’s even more clearly wrong once you consider, as the court did, that it was also unfair.”
As The Stream’s Michael Brown writes, “Anyone can attend a group’s meetings, since they are open to the public. Agreement is not required. But to lead the group — really, any group — it is necessary that you share that group’s goals. Otherwise, how can you lead it?”
He gives the example of an atheist being permitted to lead a Christian group and what that would look like in real life: “It would sound something like this, ‘Hey, my name is Evan, and I don’t believe in God. Personally, I hate the Jesus story and think the Bible is filled with dangerous myths. I also think Christians are idiots. And, with that introduction, welcome! I’m here to lead this Christian fellowship meeting today, where followers of Jesus come together to be strengthened and edified.”
However, Brown suggests that even darker forces may be at work in these cases. “Perhaps . . . what the University of Iowa did was not just ‘ludicrous’ and ‘incredibly baffling’. Perhaps it was something even worse. Perhaps it was anti-Christian and anti-religious animus that provoked their actions,” he writes.
“Hatred has a way of making people act irrationally, even highly educated people. But their irrational actions will be called out. This type of tyranny will backfire in the end. So, may the campuses of America take heed. The push back will not stop.”
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