Four years after booting a Christian organization off campus because it refused to change its beliefs, the University of Iowa will pay nearly $2 million to settle a pair of religious discrimination lawsuits
The Iowa State Appeal Board agreed Monday to pay a combined $1.93 million for attorney fees and damages in a pair of cases involving two Christian groups: Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, The Gazette newspaper reports.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented both groups in the lawsuits alleging religious discrimination.
At issue was a university requirement that groups affirm a human rights policy banning discrimination on the basis of religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, among other classes.
The controversy began when a gay student said he was refused a position within Business Leaders in Christ because he would not affirm its belief statement, which affirms the traditional, biblical view of marriage and sexuality.
The university deregistered Business Leaders in Christ after it refused to change its beliefs. The university later deregistered InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for similar reasons.
The university lost multiple rounds in court, including this year when the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Business Leaders in Christ.
“Administrators at the University of Iowa discriminated against religious student groups,” Judge Jonathan A. Kobes wrote in a separate opinion. “… The law is clear: state organizations may not target religious groups for differential treatment or withhold an otherwise available benefit solely because they are religious. That is what happened here. The individual defendants may pick their poison: they are either plainly incompetent, or they knowingly violated the Constitution.”
Earlier this year, InterVarsity leaders expressed gratitude that courts had sided with the group.
“We must have leaders who share our faith,” said Greg Jao, director of external relations at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. “No group – religious or secular – could survive with leaders who reject its values. We’re grateful the court has stopped the University’s religious discrimination, and we look forward to continuing our ministry on campus for years to come.”