A long established Christian group at Wayne State University in Michigan has filed a lawsuit in federal court after it was decertified for discrimination.
InterVarsity is a national Christian organization with over 75 years of history serving “warriors,” but its Wayne State chapter was booted from campus in 2017. The reason it ran afoul of a nondiscrimination code: Anyone can join the group under its constitution, but student leaders must subscribe to its religious principles.
The group claims that university regulations are selectively enforced to undermine Christians.
“Asking religious leaders to practice what they preach isn’t discrimination, it’s integrity,” said Lori Windham, senior legal counsel at Becket, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm representing InterVarsity, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday. “Targeting one Christian group that’s served the campus for over 75 years, while giving itself and dozens of larger groups a pass, is truly discriminatory.”
The Detroit university’s decertification forces the group to pay a $100 rental fee for each campus meeting.
“InterVarsity has been unable to reserve free meeting rooms, host free tables for interested students, appear on the website where students may go to learn more about student organizations, apply for funding available to recognized student groups, or receive any other benefits granted to other recognized student groups,” the lawsuit, filed Tuesday, alleges.
Members fear that academic institutions across the nation will use similar codes to undermine InterVarsity’s work.
A spokesman for Wayne State issued a statement late Wednesday defending its policy.
“Attaining official student organization status is a privilege rather than a right, and is conditional on compliance with our policy of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity,” the statement said. “We have taken every step possible to minimize the impact of the decertification on the group, and we approached InterVarsity last December with an offer to work on a resolution to this matter. Our offer still stands. Any such solution will be guided by our desire to reinstate the group’s organization status while adhering to our nondiscrimination policy.”