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Newsletter > March 2019 > "Update: Court Agrees with DOJ, Rules Against the University of Iowa"
Update: Court Agrees with DOJ, Rules Against the University of Iowa
Ilana Linder, Manley Burke LPA, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the January 2019 Newsletter, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) intervention in a case against the University of Iowa was high- lighted. Specifically, the DOJ took the position that the University had engaged in impermissible viewpoint discrimination when it cherry–picked which student groups’ beliefs it wished to allow and which it sought to condemn. Last month, the District Court agreed with the DOJ, ruling in favor of the student group Business Leaders in Christ and granting a permanent injunction to prevent the University from rejecting or otherwise denying the group university recognition based on the University of Iowa’s “human rights policy.”
Business Leaders in Christ claimed that its constitutional rights of free speech and religious freedom were infringed upon when its university recognition was revoked because it refused to strike a faith statement to which all group members were required to sub- scribe.
The court did not take issue with the human rights policy on its face. Rather, it concluded that the University engaged in unlawful viewpoint discrimination because of the manner in which the policy was applied unevenly to various student groups. The court found highly problematic the fact that other groups—including the Chinese Students and Scholars Association that limits member- ship to Chinese students, along with the campus chapter of the National Lawyers Guild that excludes students with certain political viewpoints—were not similarly punished by the University.
Since the University did not apply consistent standards to all groups, strict scrutiny applied. Accordingly, despite acknowledging the University’s interests in developing student leadership, providing a quality campus environment, promoting diversity, and ensuring that all students be granted equal access to educational opportunities, the court concluded that it had not narrowly tailored its means of accomplishing these interests. As such, the group was entitled to the permanent injunction and reinstatement of its University recognition.