InterVarsity Goes to Court . . . Again
So it’s okay for Christian groups to require their leaders to be Christian, right? Or a Muslim group to demand that its leaders be Muslim? Well, not on some campuses. I’m not one to go around quoting Karl Marx very often, but today I can’t resist. Marx once said that history repeats itself, “the first [time] as tragedy, then as farce.” And farce is exactly what we have at the University of Iowa. The 33,000-student institution of higher education in Iowa City is being sued by, of all people—InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. And what, pray tell, did the solons at Iowa do to be served with a lawsuit? Well, they kicked IVCF and 37 other groups off campus for violating the school’s “human rights” policy. InterVarsity ran afoul of this policy because its charter required that its leaders actually be—wait for it—Christians. The school thus accused InterVarsity of discriminating against people of different faiths, or no faith. Now, you don’t have to hold an advanced degree to figure out that no group can keep its distinct character if it allows people who hold beliefs antithetical to its core values to lead it. So imagine the student atheist club allowing Christian leaders. It’s insane! So InterVarsity is suing to protect its First Amendment rights—and the rights of others. As Daniel Blomberg of the Becket law firm told the Christian Post, “Universities should allow students the space to form their own groups that challenge and grow their sincere beliefs. Banning religious groups from having religious leaders just flattens diversity and impoverishes the campus.” My association with Socrates in the City, a forum bringing busy professionals face to face with the important questions about life, brings home to me the great need to have an active Christian witness on campus, especially any campus that prides itself on “diversity.” Besides InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, some of the other groups kicked off campus at Iowa are the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, Young Life, the Latter-day Saint Student Association, the Imam Mahdi Organization, and the Sikh Awareness Club. InterVarsity, for its part, would like to settle this quietly. “We’re grateful to have been part of the university community for 25 years,” Kristina Schrock, student president of InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, said in a statement. “Because we love our school, we hope it reconsiders and lets religious groups continue to authentically reflect their religious roots.” If all this sounds familiar to you, it should. Last year, Wayne State University in Michigan expelled InterVarsity from campus for requiring that its leaders affirm Christian faith. In March, after InterVarsity filed suit for religious discrimination, just two days later, Wayne State backed down. There’s more. According to Christianity Today, InterVarsity “lost then regained its place on 19 Cal State campuses in 2014 and 2015 due to the schools’ ‘all comers’ policy.” And for now, Iowa is allowing IVCF back on campus until the lawsuit is ended. So, what do we do in the face of such blatant discrimination against InterVarsity and other religious groups on our campuses? First, of course, we pray. This is ultimately a spiritual battle. Second, if your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, is about to go off to a secular college campus, find out what its policies are. If you find that they’re discriminating against Christian or other religious groups, speak up—and if they don’t satisfy your concerns, send your dollars and your kids elsewhere. The same goes for you alums. How is your alma mater treating religious groups? Third, let’s all remember that opposition is par for the course for believers. As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Of course, it was also Paul who defended his rights in the Roman courts so that the gospel could go forward. So thank you InterVarsity, for fighting the good fight.