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UI Student Group May Be Re-registered, Temporarily

Michelle ONeill

A group of University of Iowa students is waiting to find out if its status as a registered student group will be restored while a lawsuit plays out in federal court. 

Business Leaders in Christ, BLinC, is suing the University of Iowa for religious discrimination.

Michelle O'Neill reports Thursday morning, a federal judge in Davenport heard arguments from both sides.

Last fall, the university revoked the group's registration and funding because it wouldn't allow a gay member to be a leader.

Credit Michelle ONeill / WVIK News
Attorney Eric Baxter

Attorney, Eric Baxter, represents BLinC. He says many of the 500 registered student organizations on the Iowa City campus only allow people with certain beliefs to be leaders.

The university's attorney argues the group violated its human rights policy and the Iowa Civil Rights Act. And if BLINC accepts state funds, it must not discriminate.

Jake Estell, President of Business Leaders in Christ, says he and other members of the group want to be treated the same as other student groups.

The university's lawyer had several exchanges with the judge about whether the non-discrimination policy is enforced consistently among student groups. For example, an Islamic group requires members and leaders to sign a statement of faith. But the university's attorney responded by saying no one has filed a complaint about that group, and it's still officially registered.

Other exchanges were about whether BLinC rejected students based on who they are or what they believe. And whether the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech is more or less important than the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection for all.

BLinC wants to participate in a recruitment fair scheduled at the end of the month. And the judge plans to rule before that, in about a week.

Officially, Michelle's title for 28 years was WVIK News Editor. She did everything there is to do in the newsroom and whatever was needed around the radio station. She also served as Acting News Director from September 2023 - January 2024.