Wayne State attacks religious groupagain

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – For the second time in three months a Christian student group is fighting for its right to continue serving at the same campus it has been on for over 75 years.   

In InterVarsity Christian Fellowship v. Wayne State University, an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship student group is asking the court to protect its right to continue being a part of the campus community at Michigan-based Wayne State University. Wayne State claims the Christian group is breaking the rules by asking its leaders to share its faith, even though it lets more than 90 other student groups choose their own leaders. Now the University is asking a federal court to give it the power to kick the group off campus any time. 

“Wayne State allows 90 student groups to make their own rules for leaders—everyone from fraternities to the Quidditch Club,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at Becket, which represents the student group. “But Wayne State can’t wave a magic wand and make the Constitution disappear. Christian student groups have the same rights as everyone else.”  

InterVarsity welcomes all students to join as members and only requires that its leaders agree with its faith. But in late 2017, Wayne State kicked the group off campus, canceled the group’s reserved meetings, and forced it to pay thousands to continue holding Bible studies on campus—all because it disagreed with InterVarsity’s leadership requirement. After the student group filed a lawsuit, represented by Becket, the University let the group back on campus. But the University is now asking the court for the power to kick the group off campus.  

The University’s actions ignore the rich history of InterVarsity’s student group at Wayne State, which is one of the oldest chapters in the country. The group has held weekly Bible studies and organized service opportunities on campus for over 75 years, including repairing buildings in downtown Detroit and serving at the local food pantry. The student group is asking the court to permanently protect its ability to be a part of and continue serving the Wayne State community.  

“Wayne State’s actions threaten not just InterVarsity but all the religious groups who depend on student leaders who share their faith,” said Windham.     

Becket filed two briefs seeking a permanent fix to the school’s discriminatory policy, which also highlights a list of more than 90 groups who are allowed to choose leaders who agree with them, while InterVarsity is not.   

 For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

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Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court.For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more here). 

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