Michigan Gov. Richard Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette have been dismissed as defendants in a lawsuit by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after they agreed that a state university is discriminating against a Christian group on campus.
At issue is a policy adopted by Wayne State University that bans registered student organizations from choosing their own leaders.
The Christian group requires that its leaders be Christian.
But that requirement violated Wayne State’s nondiscrimination policy, and the group was kicked off campus, triggering a lawsuit.
The university later allowed InterVarsity to return, but the legal case continues over the policy.
The Becket Fund, which represents the student group, said Snyder and Schuette were dismissed as defendants in the case because they stated Michigan universities “must respect the rights of religious student groups to choose their own leaders.”
Becket said the announcement “comes as a blow” to Detroit-based Wayne State, which claims InterVarsity cannot restrict its leadership to students who adhere to its foundational beliefs, even though the university gives that liberty to more than 90 other student groups.
“This is a great day for religious freedom and free speech in Michigan,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket. “Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette have recognized that state universities can’t discriminate against religious student groups. We hope Wayne State will take notice.”
The legal team explained InterVarsity welcomes all students as members and only requires that its leaders agree with its religious beliefs.
Wayne State’s policy caused the group’s reserved meeting locations on campus to be canceled and cost the group thousands of dollars to be allowed to continue holding Bible studies on campus.
The unversity let the group back on campus after the lawsuit was filed, but the school still is asking the court for the power to maintain its discriminatory policy, Becket said.
InterVarsity had had a presence on the campus for more than 75 years, with Bible studies and other services to the students.
“Its goal has always been to provide a place where students can grow both their minds and their faith. And to achieve that goal, InterVarsity has always asked its leaders to share its faith. Yet in 2017, Wayne State officials suddenly decided that it was ‘discriminatory’ for a religious group to require its leaders to embrace its faith, and so cancelled all of InterVarsity’s meetings and kicked it off campus,” Becket said.
Becket argued the Secular Student Alliance “can require leaders to be secularists, Students for Life can require its members to be pro-life, and more than a dozen fraternities and sororities can limit membership to one sex.”
“These requirements are normal and acceptable, yet the school blatantly discriminates against InterVarsity by barring it from having the same ability to select leaders who share and live by its mission.”