News (USA)

Christian groups won the right to discriminate. Now the state of Iowa must pay millions.

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An Iowa state panel will pay almost $1.9 million to two University of Iowa Christian student groups that won lawsuits against the school regarding their ability to discriminate against LGBTQ people, the Associated Press reported. 

Lawyers for one of the groups, Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) will receive $1.37 million in fees. The group Intervarsity Christian Fellowship will receive $20,000 in damages, along with $513,000 in attorney’s fees.

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The lawsuits came out of a 2017 incident in which BLinC at the University of Iowa lost its Registered Student Organization (RSO) status after a gay student who wanted to be the group’s vice president filed a complaint.

According to the group, any student can join BLinC, but leadership positions are reserved for people who accept their statement of faith, which says that a person must “embrace, not reject, their God-given sex” and oppose marriage between two people of the same sex.

“Every other sexual relationship beyond this is outside of God’s design and is not in keeping with God’s original plan for humanity,” the statement said.

The University of Iowa requires all campus organizations to follow its Human Rights Policy, which bans discrimination on the basis of a number of factors, including sexual orientation.

So the university revoked the RSO status of BLinC, which meant it lost access to university resources like student activities fees and use of classrooms.

BLinC filed a lawsuit that argued that their First Amendment rights had been violated since the University of Iowa is a public school. Discrimination against LGBTQ people, they argued, was intrinsic to their religious beliefs.

A federal judge ruled in BLinC’s favor and said the school inconsistently applied its Human Rights Policy and engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

After the student complained, the university also started revoking the status of other groups that did not follow its Human Rights Policy. This included Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which also sued and won.

The university appealed in both cases but lost again.

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