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In Iowa, Religious Student Groups Get a License to Discriminate Against LGBTQ People

Feb 15, 2019

By Lisa Needham

A federal district court in Iowa ruled last week in favor of a religious student group that openly rejects LGBTQ individuals—a victory in the ongoing conservative battle to give religious organizations license to discriminate in the name of faith.

The case stems from a conservative Christian student group at the University of Iowa that sought to exclude a student who believed he was gay and was struggling with the Bible’s teachings on same-sex relationships. The group behind the lawsuit is the Becket Fund, which also sought to restrict access to birth control, is helming a lawsuit to keep Christian symbols in public parks, and represents adoption agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The court’s opinion says that the religious student group, Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC), was founded to help “seekers of Christ … keep Christ first in the fast-paced business world.” A member of the group, Marcus Miller, approached the leadership and indicated he was interested in serving on BLinC’s executive board. The group screens its executive officers “to ensure they agree with and can represent the group’s religious beliefs.” After hearing Miller struggled with being gay, the group leadership told him he could only be on the board if he were willing to forgo same-sex relationships. Miller said he was not willing to, and BLinC rejected him for the executive leadership position.

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One comment on “In Iowa, Religious Student Groups Get a License to Discriminate Against LGBTQ People”

  • 1
    Michael 100 says:

    This story has a link to the case itself. I think the first and last paragraphs are instructive.  

    “Civil and human rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s status—including his or her, gender, race, or sexual orientation—are common. The scope of their protection continues to evolve, but they are a familiar expression of society’s values. They reflect a broad consensus as to the evils of discrimination and the benefits of equal opportunity. This case involves a policy of the University of Iowa that, like those laws, prohibits discrimination based on various protected characteristics. But even the most noble government pursuits are bound by the Constitution’s protection of individual liberties. This case underscores the importance of pursuing the best-intentioned policies in an even-handed manner.

    The Court suspects that some observers will portray this case as a fundamental conflict
    between nondiscrimination laws and religious liberty. Appealing as that may be, it over inflates the issues before the Court. The Human Rights Policy promotes valuable goals for both the University and society at large. There is no fault to be found with the policy itself. But the Constitution does not tolerate the way Defendants chose to enforce the Human Rights Policy. Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risksthe most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which Defendants have failed to withstand.”
    I saw another story, reported in USA Today, under the headline:  “Transgender nurse barred from using men’s restroom wins discrimination case against Iowa”.  The story reported February 16, states that an Iowa jury awarded $120,000 to a transgender nurse who had been bared from using restroom facilities at an Iowa correctional institution where he worked.

    We should also remember that the Iowa District Court and the Iowa Supreme Court were among the first state courts to find the right to marriage equality in the Iowa  Constitution.

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