Great news for First Amendment rights at public universities! InterVarsity at the University of Iowa won big at a federal district court, the same that heard the Business Leaders in Christ case. This decision reaffirms the need for Congress to enact the Equal Campus Access Act.
Congress should see this decision on its merits and pass the Equal Campus Access Act to bring the clarity and force of law to this issue. The Equal Campus Access Act is a bill that adds one sentence of language to law, ensuring students don’t lose their first amendment rights on public college campuses—specifically pertaining to faith-based clubs.
The decision by the court not only upholds InterVarsity’s ability to require leaders to adhere to its core Christian mission, but also goes a step further to find, for the first time, that university officials can be held personally liable. This is a change from the norm of the university paying damages if university officials are found to have knowingly acted unconstitutionally or unlawfully.
In this instance, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa found that specific officials at the University of Iowa should have known they were acting unlawfully in no longer recognizing InterVarsity as an official club on campus due to its leadership requirements.
Enacting the Equal Campus Access Act into law will alleviate any confusion public universities may have regarding the rights of religious clubs and faith-based organizations on campus. It would make clear that faith-based clubs cannot be discriminated against for following their sincerely held beliefs.
Congress must act. No longer should this be an issue left for the courts to untangle. As this decision demonstrates, it should already be clear in the light of the Constitution.
In the Senate, the Equal Campus Access Act is S. 1168 and has 27 cosponsors. The identical bill is in the U.S. House as bill H.R 3243 and has four cosponsors.
CWALAC and our field leaders recently lobbied on this bill on our lobby day resulting in an additional four cosponsors on the Senate bill. Your voice makes the difference. Please make your views on this bill heard by using our action center to ask your senators and representative to cosponsor this bill, if they have not already done so.