InterVarsity Christian Fellowship scored an important win in its ongoing fight to stay on campus at Wayne State University in Michigan. A federal court ruled Friday the ministry’s case against the school could proceed. InterVarsity sued in March 2018 after Wayne State denied it recognition because the student group required its leaders to embrace Christian doctrines, including prohibitions against sexual misconduct and homosexual activity.
In its decision, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan agreed the school may have targeted InterVarsity because of its religious beliefs and violated its freedom of speech, noting, “A reasonable inference from InterVarsity’s factual allegations is that Wayne State was not treating it the same as everyone else.” The case can now go to trial.
InterVarsity on its website describes years of challenges at more than a dozen public and private universities. Most disputes were amicably resolved, and colleges allowed the ministry to remain. Some, however, like Bowdoin College, Rollins College, Tufts University, and Vanderbilt University, balked and went unchallenged.
Like InterVarsity, the evangelical campus ministry Young Life welcomes all students but bars practicing homosexuals from volunteer and staff positions. Student government leaders at Duke University, a private school with a United Methodist heritage, recently rejected Young Life’s application for official status because of that policy. Ministry representatives have not commented on the decision. Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel for the Becket Fund, explained that while public institutions like Wayne State must comply with First Amendment guarantees, private entities may not have the same obligations, though relevant state laws or funding conditions may apply. —S.W.