InterVarsity Back on Campus After Suing Wayne State

Michigan university had kicked out student ministry over requiring leaders to hold Christian beliefs.

Last year, InterVarsity lost its recognition as a student group at Wayne State, the third-largest school in Michigan, over requirements that its leaders affirm the organization’s Christian beliefs. The school viewed the belief requirement as a violation of its nondiscrimination policy.

 

Just two days after InterVarsity Christian Fellowship filed a lawsuit against Wayne State University, the Detroit school decided to let the chapter regain its official status on campus once again—one of the quickest initial victories in a string of legal battles over Christian groups at public colleges.

Last year, InterVarsity lost its recognition as a student group at Wayne State, the third-largest school in Michigan, over requirements that its leaders affirm the organization’s Christian beliefs. The school viewed the belief requirement as a violation of its nondiscrimination policy.

InterVarsity sued on Tuesday, claiming religious discrimination; other student groups allowed on campus similarly ask leaders to share certain core values. Wayne State ultimately re-certified the student ministry on Thursday.

“We’re so glad that Wayne State is letting us back on campus,” said Cristina Garza, former president and current member of Wayne State’s InterVarsity chapter, which dates back 75 years and is one of the oldest in the country. “We hope the school will make this change permanent, so no other students have to go through what we’ve been through over the last six months.”

InterVarsity is all too familiar with the fight for campus access, having lost then regained its place on 19 Cal State campuses in 2014 and 2015 due to the schools’ “all comers” policy, which requires school-sanctioned groups to open membership eligibility to all students and leadership positions to all members. Such a policy also led to InterVarsity getting forced off Vanderbilt University’s campus a few years before.

Across more than 1,000 chapters at 687 college campuses, InterVarsity opens membership to all students, and about a quarter of participants are “not-yet-Christian,” the ministry reports. However, InterVarsity continues to require its student leaders to be Christians and to affirm its core beliefs.

The Wayne State saga comes weeks after similar issues at other major universities. Last month, Harvard put a Christian group on a year-long probation for asking a student in a same-sex relationship to leave the organization.

“We reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in our fellowship,” the leaders of Harvard College Faith and Action stated. “Broadly speaking, the student in this case was removed because of an irreconcilable theological disagreement pertaining to our character standards.”

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