A Christian student group on Wednesday argued in a federal court hearing in Michigan that public universities must “treat religious student groups equally with other campus groups,” in a case that has pitted the 142-year-old InterVarsity Christian Fellowship against Wayne State University.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is an organization with at least 1,000 individual chapters, and, according to its website, the purpose of the Wayne State InterVarsity chapter is to “establish and advance a witnessing community of students and faculty who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord: growing in love for God, God’s Word, God’s people of every ethnicity and culture, and God’s purposes in the world.”
But the 75-year-old Wayne State chapter of InterVarsity had its student organization status revoked by the university in 2017 “because the Christian student group asks its leaders to embrace its faith,” according to lawyers representing the organization.
Meanwhile, InterVarsity’s lawyer’s say, other students groups—including fraternities and the Quidditch Club—are able to select leaders based on the organization’s stated mission.
“All we ask is that our student leaders keep our Christian faith,” Wayne State student and InterVarsity member Deaunai Montgomery said outside the courthouse on Wednesday.
“To be clear, we want everyone to feel welcome to attend our group,” she added. “As a Christian group, we need our leaders to sincerely believe that what they teach us about Jesus is true.
“Wayne State insisted on treating us differently from everyone else. We asked Wayne State to end the double standard, they refused,” she said.
The issue first arose in 2017, when Wayne State began using a new online system to register student organizations. InterVarsity uploaded its group’s constitution, which asked that student leadership embrace its mission.
But the university in October informed the chapter that its recognition would be revoked over that stipulation, claiming that “the constitution’s requirement that leaders share the chapter’s faith was inconsistent with the school’s nondiscrimination code,” The Detroit Free Press reported.
As a result, according to the lawsuit filed over the disagreement, InterVarsity could no longer host free tables for interested students, apply for funding, appear on the website for student organizations, reserve free meeting rooms, or use any of the other benefits normally enjoyed by student groups on campus.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Olivia Messer