The Wayne State University guidelines that all student groups – including religious groups – allow students to be part of the leadership team of a group, even if those students do not believe like the group, should be overturned, religious freedom defense lawyers will argue in federal court on Wednesday.
The court appearance is part of an ongoing battle between Wayne State and the local chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
The case began in 2017, when the university launched a new online registration system for student organizations. InterVarsity, which has had a Wayne State chapter for 75 years, completed the form and uploaded the group’s constitution.
The constitution says that InterVarsity welcomes all students, regardless of religious beliefs, as members, but calls for student leaders to embrace its religious mission.
Then, in October 2017, the branch’s leadership was informed that its recognition was being withdrawn because “the constitution’s requirement that leaders share the branch’s faith was inconsistent with the school “.
The move meant that InterVarsity was no longer able to book free meeting rooms, host free tables for interested students, request funding available for recognized student groups, or receive any other benefits granted. to student groups, according to the lawsuit. InterVarsity continued to meet on campus, but had to pay $ 100 each time to rent a room when they were not a recognized student organization.
In March 2018, InterVarsity filed a lawsuit claiming Wayne State could not impose restrictions. Days after the complaint was filed, Wayne State relented and re-established InterVarsity, assuming that would be the end of the case.
This was not the case.
“Wayne State wants to maintain its current policy of selectively enforced patchwork and the ability to re-penalize InterVarsity at any time,” a court record filed by lawyers for InterVarsity said. “It would overturn the First Amendment. InterVarsity has the right to engage in religious speech and exercise with the permanent protection of the First Amendment, not the temporary pardon of hostile university officials.
The lawsuit also claims that Wayne State does not take this leadership test to several other groups on campus, making the application selective.
“The result is that student groups do not have a single rule that they can look to to determine what behavior is allowed and what is not. They are at the mercy of unwritten additions, exceptions and discretionary policies known only to Wayne State. authorized. ”
Wayne State denies these allegations in its responses filed in federal courts.
“The various claims of the plaintiffs boil down to the same theory, rich in irony. In summary, the complainants argue that Wayne State engaged in discrimination by refusing to subsidize the complainants in discrimination. The Supreme Court, however, made it clear that universities did not have to provide privileges to groups of students who seek to discriminate on the basis of religion or otherwise in violation of school policy. “
Wayne State goes on to say that he is not forcing the group to accept anyone for a leadership position, but rather, “Wayne State simply conditions access to certain benefits upon adherence to the non-discrimination policy.” .
The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday in a federal courtroom in Port Huron.
Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj