Christian group rejects gay student – then sues for discrimination in federal court
A Christian group who rejected a student for a leadership position because he came out as gay is suing for discrimination in federal court.
Business Leaders in Christ, a conservative Christian group at the University of Iowa, denied a request from student Marcus Miller to serve as its vice-president because of his sexuality.
Though the group’s membership is technically open to all, its leaders must agree to a statement of faith which rejects gay and transgender people.
The affirmation includes a promise from students to “embrace, not reject, their God-given sex” and to support the concept that marriage can only be heterosexual.
“Every other sexual relationship beyond this is outside of God’s design and is not in keeping with God’s original plan for humanity,” the statement says.
On its now-defunct Facebook page, the group wrote: “We exist to equip our members to work in the marketplace and conduct their business with honesty, integrity, and for the glory of God.”
This “glory,” it seems, does not include gay or transgender people.
Miller complained to the university about the rejection, leading authorities to revoke the group’s campus registration in November.
This means it can’t reserve a campus meeting space, take part in recruitment fairs or use university-wide services which let groups communicate with students.
The University of Iowa says it respects freedom of religion, but will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
This means that it differs from Donald Trump’s administration, which has told the Supreme Court that it supports businesses being able to refuse service to same-sex couples.
University spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said on-campus groups must ensure “that equal opportunity and equal access to membership, programming, facilities, and benefits shall be open to all persons”.
But Business Leaders in Christ has said that it “cannot and will not ask leaders who do not share its beliefs to lead members in prayer or to convey those beliefs”.
The group’s attorney, Eric Baxter, who comes from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty firm, said the group’s actions were excusable.
“You would never ask an environmental group to have a climate denier as their leader. It’s the same thing here,” he said.
Climate change is, of course, real – just as real as, say, homophobia.
Meanwhile, Miller, who is majoring in Political Science and Ethics and Public Policy, has started a group of his own, called Love Works.
It’s a fully inclusive religious organisation which is “focused on showing God’s love through acts of service and social justice.”
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Miller, who plans to go law school after he graduates, has explained: “I emphasise inclusivity because when i was a freshman at Iowa last year, I applied for two leadership positions in two campus ministries, and was offered both of them.
“However, when I told them I was gay, they rescinded their offers because they didn’t like my ‘lifestyle,'” he added, making use of scare quotes to make his point.
“Well, obviously I didn’t like that, so that inspired Love Works.”
Watch Marcus talk about Love Works here: