Michigan university reverses decision to revoke status of Christian student group following lawsuit

(Wikimedia Commons/Del arte)Wayne State University's Old Main is featured in this image.

A Michigan university has decided to reinstate a chapter of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after the student organization filed a lawsuit in Detroit federal court.

In October, Wayne State University (WSU) had decided not to renew InterVarsity's officially recognized status for the 2017-2018 school year, saying the organization's constitution is in violation of the school's discrimination policy.

According to MLive.com, the school's policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, familial status, marital status, height, weight, disability and veteran status.

Although any student — regardless of religious beliefs — can join InterVarsity, leaders are required to profess the faith requirement consistent with the group's mission.

The group has pointed out that there are other officially recognized student organizations that operate with limitations to gender, race or religion. It noted that the membership of Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association is made up of "regular young Muslims trying their best to practice and express their faith in university."

WSU defended its decision to revoke the Christian group's status by saying, the "constitutional and religious rights of everyone" must be protected, and that the recognition as a student group was not a right.

InterVarsity, which had served the students at the school for the last 75 years, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, contending that the university was discriminating against the student group.

Fox News reported that members of the organization have been helping the community for decades by volunteering at food pantries, helping clean up rundown neighborhoods in Detroit, raising awareness about human trafficking and organizing campus talks about the intersection of Christianity, race and social justice.

After the group's official status was revoked by the school, it has been unable to reserve free meeting rooms, apply for funding, or receive any other benefits that are available to other official student organizations.

InterVarsity later claimed that it had paid $2,720 to reserve space that otherwise should have been available for free to the student group.

"I believe they were unfair and discriminatory," said Lori Windham, senior legal counsel at Becket, representing InterVarsity. "The university let dozens of other student groups choose student leaders according to their beliefs. There's no reason to single out InterVarsity because of its Christian beliefs," she added.

WSU had released a statement saying it was not singling out InterVarsity, adding that it has "taken every step possible to minimize the impact of the decertification on the group."

The university stated that it had approached the Christian group last December "with an offer to work on a resolution to this matter."

On Thursday, the university reversed its decision to decertify InterVarsity, saying it would not interfere with the group's leadership selection.

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