Christian Students In Idaho University Punished For Their Biblical Beliefs, Lawsuit Says

Idaho University Punished Christian Students For Their Biblical Beliefs, Lawsuit Says

A new federal lawsuit accuses a university in Idaho for violating the religious liberty and free speech rights of three law students over their biblical views on marriage.

On Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed against the University of Idaho for violating the religious liberty and free speech rights of three law students. The university allegedly punished the three students for expressing their biblical beliefs about marriage.

The lawsuit alleged that the three students, Peter Perlot, Mark Miller, and Ryan Alexander, who are members of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter at the University of Idaho, were at a community event on April 1 to  condemn the use of an LGBT slur when another student asked them why the CLS required its officers to affirm that marriage is between a man and woman. One CLS member answered that the chapter "requires this because it is the only view of marriage and sexuality affirmed in the Bible."

The Christian Headlines reported that another CLS member "left a handwritten note for the student" who asked the question and told her that he "would be happy to discuss this further" in order to "both fully be heard and better understand one another's views," the lawsuit said.

A few days later, Perlot, Miller, and Alexander received "no-contact" orders from the Idaho university's Office of Civil Rights and Investigations, prohibiting them from communicating with the student who asked the question. The lawsuit alleged, "Instead of allowing the students to disagree civilly and respectfully with one another and to discuss these important issues, the University chose instead to censor Plaintiffs." KIDO Talk Radio reported that the three Christian law students were not contacted to get their side of the story and did not have an opportunity to defend themselves from the allegations.

The lawsuit argues that the punishment violates the students' rights under the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Michael Ross remarked, "Students of all religious and ideological stripes must be free to discuss and debate the important issues of our day, especially law students who are preparing for a career that requires civil dialogue among differing viewpoints."

"Yet the University of Idaho is shutting down Peter, Mark, and Ryan because of their religious beliefs," Ross added. "This is illegal behavior from any government official, and we urge the university officials to right their discriminatory actions immediately."

Elsewhere in the state, the newly established Idaho Family Policy Center has helped draft and push three of the "biggest and most controversial pieces of legislation during the 2022 session," the Idaho Capital Sun reported. One measure bans most abortions in Idaho by allowing civil lawsuits against medical providers, while another bill makes it a felony to provide gender affirming care to minors. Lastly, the organization also helped push a bill holding librarians criminally liable for children who access "obscene materials."

The Idaho Family Policy Center came about from previous and similar efforts that were not as successful in the past, including the Idaho Family Forum, which was affiliated with Focus on the Family, which has a lobbying organization called Family Policy Alliance. The Idaho Family Forum dissolved in 2000 and a similar group started the Cornerstone Institute of Idaho, which failed as well. In 2017, the Family Policy Alliance took over Cornerstone and re-established it as the Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.