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Education

Judge dismisses faith-based student group's complaints against University of Iowa

Decision nixes March 4 trial

Business Leaders in Christ president senior enterprise management major Jake Estell, sophomore business analytics and Spanish double major Liz Swanson and Business Leaders in Christ vice president sophomore soon to be management and marketing major Brett Eikenberry set up their display during the UI Student Organization Fair at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Business Leaders in Christ president senior enterprise management major Jake Estell, sophomore business analytics and Spanish double major Liz Swanson and Business Leaders in Christ vice president sophomore soon to be management and marketing major Brett Eikenberry set up their display during the UI Student Organization Fair at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A federal judge has agreed to dismiss unresolved claims in a lawsuit pitting a faith-based student group against the University of Iowa, ending the spat two weeks shy of a scheduled March 4 trial.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie M. Rose earlier this month issued a split ruling on the high-profile case involving counter accusations of discrimination that put the university’s human rights policy up against what the students allege are their First Amendment and religious liberty rights.

Rose’s ruling on the 20-count lawsuit, filed in late 2017 by student group Business Leaders in Christ — or BLinC — barred the UI from deregistering BLinC for its leader-selection standards while the university continued to allow other student groups to be exempt from its human rights policy.

The university, citing that policy, deregistered BLinC for barring an openly gay member from becoming a leader. After Rose early in the case found Iowa was unequally enforcing its human rights mandate, campus administrators launched a sweeping review of the university’s 500-plus student organizations and found hundreds were out of compliance.

That process led to the UI deregistering dozens more groups, including InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, which sued on similar grounds as BLinC.

Although Rose’s recent order blocks the UI from unevenly enforcing its human rights policy, it included a caveat that the UI could again kick BLinC off campus as long as the university treats other groups the same way.

Rose sided with the UI on several issues — including those related to damages — ordering the institution to pay BLinC a symbolic $1. Her order left 13 of the lawsuit’s 20 claims unresolved, and those are now dismissed, according to her most recent ruling.

The finding, however, does not limit either side’s ability to appeal.

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“BLinC has indicated that, in light of the relief granted in the summary judgment order, it views proceeding to trial on its remaining claims to be unnecessary,” Rose wrote.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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