Operations Blog | What do First Amendment rights guarantee to student organizations?

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Staff at the Daily Iowan Opinions discuss the settlement of two First Amendment rights lawsuits.


Shahab Khan (Opinions Columnist): For example, the University of Iowa has been involved in two First Amendment lawsuits concerning religious freedom.

Hannah Pinski (Opinion Editor and Amplify): Indeed. One was from 2017 and involved Business Leaders in Christ, also known as BLinC, and the other was from 2018 from the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. The Eighth Circuit court ordered the UI to pay $ 1.93 million for attorney fees and damages.

Chahab: Going through the details of the case, these groups were both deregistered by the university.

For BLinC, it all started when an LGBTQ + member was barred from becoming a leader despite not claiming that same-sex marriages were against the Bible.

Meanwhile, Intervarsity sued after Andrew Kutcher, the former co-ordinator of student organizations development, informed the group that their constitution violated UI human rights policy by prohibiting non-Christians to hold leadership positions.

Hannah: Although the decisions have already been made, I am sure that the settlement money will reignite the debate in the community on these decisions. I think it’s important to look at this from a moral and a legal perspective, because they’re two different perspectives.

Chahab: Okay, I agree with you on this point. Often when the law is discussed, conversations tend to assume that legality implies that the law is moral. However, as many jurists have noted over time, it is important to recognize that morality is not necessarily an antecedent of legality.

Hannah: What do you think from a moral point of view?

Chahab: We must recognize that this decision represents the conundrum when it comes to confronting morality with our constitution. The beauty and limitation of the First Amendment is that it protects everyone’s speech, regardless of their moral system, unless that moral system calls for hurting people.

In the eyes of BLinC and Intervarsity, by fleeing the LGBTQ + community, they are preserving their moral tradition against what they see as immoral behavior. In my opinion, the “moral tradition” that these groups want to protect is a backward and dangerous system that facilitates discrimination against people who do not identify as Christians.

I guess what I’m trying to understand is that there is a tension in the liberal principles that guide our constitution and my own ethical philosophy demands that I tolerate the rights of the ‘other side’ to s’ Express. Even if these opinions are based on bigotry.

Hannah: From a legal point of view, student organizations had a much stronger argument than the university. These organizations have First Amendment rights. If other student organizations such as other religious groups or women’s leadership groups are allowed to restrict leadership based on factors like gender or ideology, then it would be hypocritical not to allow Christian organizations to restrict it. To do.

Chahab: Yes, I agree with you, based on how our current legal system interprets the First Amendment, student organizations have a stronger case to make. That being said, it should also be remembered that what the discrimination these groups promote shows the limits of our legal system in moral litigation.


Columns reflect the views of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations with which the author may be involved. ‘


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