A Christian student group at a Michigan university allegedly had its constitution revoked and its Bible meetings canceled by the university because the group requires its leaders to affirm their faith.
The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship student group at Wayne State University, which has been on the campus for 75 years, is filing suit against the university. A statement from Becket, a non-profit religious liberty law firm representing the plaintiffs, asserted:
School officials stripped them of official recognition just because the group requires its leaders to affirm their faith. Wayne State has over 400 student groups that contribute to its intellectual and cultural diversity, all of which are free to select leaders who embrace their missions—except, suddenly, one Christian student group. InterVarsity welcomes all students to its meetings and to join as members. It requires only that its leaders believe in and live out its faith. Yet in 2017, Wayne State rejected the group’s constitution, derecognized InterVarsity, and cancelled all of InterVarsity reserved meetings.
As Nikita Vladimirov writes at Campus Reform, “According to the law firm, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter at Wayne State has held weekly meetings, including Bible studies and prayer vigils, and organized various community service opportunities on campus for over seven decades.”
Lori Windham, Senior Legal Counsel at Becket, argued, “Asking religious leaders to practice what they preach isn’t discrimination, it’s integrity. Targeting one Christian group that’s served the campus for over 75 years, while giving itself and dozens of larger groups a pass is truly discriminatory.”
The lawsuit charges, “As an arm of the state of Michigan, Wayne State is subject to Michigan anti-discrimination law, which prohibits religious discrimination in educational institutions. Michigan state officials have a duty and an obligation to follow state and federal law, but those laws are being violated with impunity by Wayne State and its officials, and higher Michigan state officials in Lansing have a duty to stop them. “
Becket noted that Intervarsity was being held to a different standard than other groups: “For example, the Secular Student Alliance can require its leaders to profess secular beliefs, the Students for Life group can require leaders to be pro-life, and Students for a Democratic Society can require its leaders to support its political view.”
Wayne State responded with this statement to Campus Reform:
Wayne State University took action to decertify the student organization InterVarsity because it is in violation of the university’s non-discrimination policy, which is consistent with the United States Constitution. Every student organization that applies for organizational status must agree to this policy before being certified. Leaders of this group read and agreed to the policy during the application process.
The university is obliged and committed to protecting the constitutional and religious rights of everyone on our campus. Attaining official student organization status is a privilege rather than a right, and is conditional on compliance with our policy of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity.
We have taken every step possible to minimize the impact of the decertification on the group, and we approached InterVarsity last December with an offer to work on a resolution to this matter. Our offer still stands. Any such solution will be guided by our desire to reinstate the group’s organization status while adhering to our nondiscrimination policy.