Iowa to donate $ 2 million to Christian groups to resolve discrimination complaints

An Iowa board of directors said Monday the state would pay nearly $ 2 million to settle two federal lawsuits alleging “point of view discrimination” by the University of Iowa against groups of evangelical students who demanded that their leaders adhere to Christian beliefs.

The student groups – Business Leaders in Christ and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – filed the federal lawsuits in 2017. The university removed them from the list after a gay student complained to school officials that the club business had rejected him for a managerial position because he would not assert the club. consider that marriage is a union for a man and a woman only.

A federal court ruled in favor of the student groups, and the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld lower court decisions.

On November 10, U.S. District Judge Stephanie M. Rose ordered the university to pay $ 1.37 million in legal fees in the Business Leaders in Christ case and nearly $ 534,000 in the InterVarsity Christian case. Fellowship. The business group also received $ 3 in damages from three university officials; Justice Rose awarded $ 20,000 in damages to the other group.

The Iowa State Appeals Board approved the court-ordered settlements on Monday.

“We are grateful that the settlement covers the financial cost of the litigation,” Greg Jao, vice president of communications and engagement at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “But the reality is that it doesn’t make up for the losses suffered by the students on campus because they fought to be able to serve the campus freely.”

Asked for comment, the university’s director of media relations, Anne Bassett, said via email, “The University of Iowa supports the religious freedom of our students.”

Eric Baxter is vice president and senior legal counsel at Becket Law, which represented both groups of students.

“When university officials target students of the faith, it comes at a price. The blatant discrimination against religious students at the University of Iowa was completely preventable. The University of Iowa had several exit ramps early in the case, including direct warnings from the court to stop religious targeting. Instead, he doubled down on his attacks on Protestant groups by adding Sikhs, Muslims, Latter-day Saints and others to their target list, ”Baxter said. “Now the University has paid the price, and other universities should think twice before treating religious student groups as second class citizens.”

– This article is based in part on press service reports.

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