A federal court ruled in favor of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after they filed a lawsuit against Wayne State University for booting them off campus over their policy requiring Christian leaders.
Judge Robert H. Cleland of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan states that the university's actions was a "strike at the heart" of the First Amendment and that they are "obviously odious to the Constitution," reports The Christian Post.
The school's demand for the club to conform its leadership requirements to the 'new' status quo is "categorically barred by the Constitution," decides the judge.
"The uncontested facts demonstrate that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' rights to internal management, free speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and free exercise as a matter of law," Justice Cleland wrote.
The judge added that the university violated the Constitution's Free Exercise Clause in their "disparate and discriminatory" treatment of the religious group. Other student clubs were allowed to make decisions about leadership requirements including "sex, gender identity, political partisanship, ideology, creed, ethnicity, GPA or attractiveness," but the "small group of Christians," in the magistrate's words, "were denied benefits because they require their Christian leaders to be ... Christian."
CP noted that WSU temporarily reinstated the Christian club shortly after the lawsuit, but still maintained their decision to remove the group. Their rationale in de-registering the club in October 2017 was due to InterVarsity's leadership policies which they deemed as "discriminatory" to non-Christian students.
"The religious student group was kicked off campus solely for asking its leaders to share its faith and not for any other reason or due to any student complaints," said Ryan Colby, Becket media relations associate.
The lawsuit pointed out how WSU failed to extend the same recognition it gave to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association, another student organization, to InterVarsity composed of Christians.
"Simply put, Wayne State is unconstitutionally targeting InterVarsity because of InterVarsity's religious beliefs," the lawsuit stated. "As an arm of the state of Michigan, Wayne State is subject to Michigan anti-discrimination law, which prohibits religious discrimination in educational institutions."
"Wayne State rightly allows fraternities to have only male leaders, female athletic clubs to have only female leaders, and African-American clubs to have only African-American leaders," the lawsuit added. "But Wayne State cannot then say it is wrong for a Christian club to have only Christian leaders."
The court ordered WSU officials to pay $1 as penalty and to recognize the Christian club's status as a registered student organization that has the freedom to decide its "religious criteria for student leadership selection."
"The law is crystal clear: universities can't kick religious student groups off campus just because they choose leaders who share their faith," Becket Senior Counsel Lori Windham told CP. "The court's common-sense ruling today means that InterVarsity must be treated fairly, just as it had been for 75 years at Wayne State, and now can continue its good work serving a diverse campus community."