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Judge: School’s Eviction of Christian Ministry ‘Obviously Odious to the Constitution’

'The law is crystal clear: universities can’t kick religious student groups off campus just because they choose leaders who share their faith...'

Wayne State University acted in a way “obviously odious to the Constitution” when it kicked InterVarsity Christian Fellowship off campus for only recruiting Christian leaders, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

IVCF is a Christian campus ministry, and though they minister to non-Christians, they want their own leaders to be professed Christians, Becket Law reported.

District Court Judge Robert H. Cleland found that Wayne State arbitrarily discriminated against IVCF, since other campus groups can set their own qualifications for leadership positions.

“Student groups were permitted to restrict leadership based on sex, gender identity, political partisanship, ideology, creed, ethnicity, and even GPA and physical attractiveness,” Cleland wrote.

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Wayne State administrators “denied benefits” to IVCF only “because they require their Christian leaders to be . . . Christian,” he wrote.

Cleland found that the First Amendment prohibits universities from forcing religious organizations to admit leaders “who may be hostile to [their] religious tenets.”

“No religious group can constitutionally be made an outsider, excluded from equal access to public or university life, simply because it insists on religious leaders who believe in its cause,” he ruled.

Becket Law, a legal group dedicated to protecting religious liberty, sued Wayne State in 2018 on behalf of IVCF.

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As the parties awaited a ruling, Wayne State let IVCF return to campus, but the university continued to assert its right to prohibit the Christian ministry from operating on campus.

“The law is crystal clear: universities can’t kick religious student groups off campus just because they choose leaders who share their faith,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket.

“The court’s common-sense ruling today means that InterVarsity must be treated fairly, just as it had been for 75 years at Wayne State, and now can continue its good work serving a diverse campus community,” Windham said.

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