Why did University of Iowa single out Christian campus group?

Jacob Estell, Iowa View contributor
Published 4:43 p.m. CT Dec. 14, 2017 | Updated 4:44 p.m. CT Dec. 14, 2017


On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issues government-wide legal guidance, urging sweeping protections for religious freedom that could impact a series of pending policy decisions involving health care, LGBT rights, and even disaster relief.

Can Christians go to college? As a committed Christian, that’s not a question I ever thought I would find myself asking.

And yet, as a senior at the University of Iowa, I find myself asking it every day.

Recently, my school’s administration actively selected the organization that I lead, Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) for a coercive “rebranding” exercise, if you will. Our organization, as its name so obviously reveals, is a Christian group. We are students who care about faith and also want to study business. We had the audacity to think those two things were not mutually exclusive. We also find fellowship and friendship through our organization, in addition to using it as a platform to think through how we can apply our values of service and integrity to the field we are pursuing.

But bureaucrats at the University of Iowa in their infinite wisdom have decided that of the myriad student groups on campus, ours is in need of “correction.” Like any organization on campus, we have a mission and purpose. The campus Democrats exist to promote their party’s values and can require their leader to be a Democrat. The feminist organization promotes feminism and can require their leader to be a feminist. The pro-life organization promotes pro-life positions and can require their leader to be pro-life.

According to the school however, we cannot have a statement of faith or require our leaders to sign it. Put simply, the school is discriminating against our group and only our group, for the mere reason that our mission is religious in nature.

This certainly isn’t the only time a school has discriminated against Christian groups. As I find myself fighting for the basic right to run a campus Christian organization, I have read with shock about the Chi Alpha (Greek for “Christ’s Ambassadors”) student group’s fight against the Cal State University system. Cal State officials took the group’s constitution and scratched out every reference to their church affiliate “Assemblies of God” or “Pentecostal Church” and tried to force the students to accept the revisions. When the students stood firm in their faith and refused, the school locked them out of their meeting spaces. 

Stories such as these are what you expect when you read about totalitarian dictatorships, not the purportedly broad-minded institutions of higher learning that dot the landscape of a nation founded in freedom of thought and expression. 

America’s campuses tout themselves as the bastions of diversity and freedom of thought. And yet The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has a running list of schools that have disinvited speakers because the campus could not tolerate a difference of opinion. And more and more, a disinvitation is not enough. Just ask Middlebury professor Allison Stranger, who was put in a neck brace by a violent campus mob upset about a speaker at an event she was moderating.

Like the higher-ups at Cal State, the officials at my school have told our group that we must sign a “revised” statement of faith which would essentially eliminate our core beliefs. Their message to us – and to all students – is not just that only certain beliefs will be tolerated on campus, but that contrary beliefs are fair game for openly hostile discrimination. 

It isn’t just discrimination, it’s disappointing. University of Iowa students deserve better than the kind of intellectual fraud that peddles open-mindedness while concurrently “correcting” the beliefs of one and only one group of students. The school’s own website states in its mission that “every single Hawkeye learns how to build their own path and bravely go wherever it leads.”

This Hawkeye is proud to test whether the University truly means it.

Jacob Estell is a senior at the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Business.

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