University of Iowa’s Attack on the First Amendment

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In an unprecedented action, the University of Iowa has kicked 38 Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) off campus, including at least 22 organized around religion, culture, or ideology.

Tim Schultz, President of 1st Amendment Partnership, a nonpartisan organization committed to defending religious liberty for all Americans, calls on the Iowa legislature to address the issue:

“Freedom of association is guaranteed for all Americans in the 1st Amendment. Integral to this protection is the ability of groups to form and choose their own leadership.

“Singling out certain belief-based groups as the ‘wrong kind of diverse’ is a bad way to promote diversity.

University of Iowa students will return in August to a school that is less dynamic and community-oriented than they left in the spring.

Iowa lawmakers have the ability to defend freedom of association for students across Iowa during the 2019 legislative session. Last year the Iowa Senate passed this necessary protection; we hope to see a successful bipartisan effort land on the governor’s desk next Spring.”

Background

Across the country, faith-based student groups have been kicked off campus, and in ten states, legislators have passed laws affirmatively protecting the right of student groups to choose their own leaders. During the 2018 legislative session, the Iowa Senate passed a bill that would protect belief-based groups on Iowa’s public campuses.

In 2017, Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC), a Christian RSO at the University of Iowasued University officials after being kicked off campus for requiring its student leadership embrace its religious beliefs. Up to this point, the court has agreed that the University of Iowa may not treat BLinC differently from other, non-religious groups.

Even so, the University of Iowa, a public institution, is demanding that student groups relinquish their right to choose their own leaders, or lose all the benefits of being an RSO. So far, groups like the Sikh Awareness Club, InterVarsity (Christian), and Imam Mahdi (Shia Muslim) have been deregistered and are denied resources all other groups enjoy, like meeting on campus and participating in club fairs.

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