A Christian student group is suing a Michigan college after being stripped of its official recognition solely because it required its religious leaders to embrace Christianity.
After 75 years on campus, Wayne State University unconstitutionally de-recognized InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in October, because the group requires its leaders to be Christians, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court yesterday.
“I believe they were unfair and discriminatory,” Lori Windham, senior legal counsel at Becket, representing InterVarsity, told Fox News. “The university let dozens of other student groups choose student leaders according to their beliefs. There’s no reason to single out InterVarsity because of its Christian beliefs.”
The issue arose in 2017, when the Detroit-based public college started a new online registration system for its some 400 student organizations. After InterVarsity filled out the form, the group was de-recognized because of “the constitution’s requirement that leaders share the chapter’s faith was inconsistent with the school’s nondiscrimination code.”
Like many other student groups at Wayne State, anyone – regardless of religious beliefs – can join InterVarsity, but if they want to become a leader, they have to profess the faith requirement consistent with the group’s mission.
InterVarsity’s purpose “is to establish and advance at colleges and universities witnessing communities of students and faculty who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.” The group has been active in the community for decades: volunteering at food pantries, helping clean up rundown neighborhoods in Detroit, and raising awareness on the plague of human trafficking and holding discussions on campus about the intersection of Christianity, race, and social justice.
Since getting stripped of recognition, InterVarsity has been unable to reserve free meeting rooms, host free tables for interested students, appear on the school’s website, apply for student group funds, or receive any other benefits granted to other official student organizations.
“It’s a strange case,” Windham said. “It should be obvious that religious groups at schools should get to choose who gets to lead their Bible studies.”
But Windham notes, this isn’t the only case of Christians being targeted on campus.
“We have seen other examples in recent years where schools have tried to keep out religious student groups because of their faith,” Windham said. “I’m hopeful that the court will make it clear that this kind of behavior is unlawful.”
A Wayne State spokesman said the school was not singling out the Christian group.
“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,” the university told Fox News. “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.”