Complaint Filed Against Rutgers

By on October 11, 2002

Law Office of Demetrios K. Stratis
Mack-Cali Willowbrook Center
201 Willowbrook Boulevard
Fourth Floor
Wayne, New Jersey 07470
(973) 256-7700
Attorney for Plaintiff

 

INTERVARSITY MULTI-ETHNIC CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP,
Plaintiff,

vs.

RUTGERS, THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY,

Defendants,

 


UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEYCivil Action No.:

 


COMPLAINT>
For its Complaint, Plaintiff InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship (the Fellowship) states as follows:>


Jurisdiction and Venue>
1. This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331 (federal question) and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988.>

2. Venue is proper in this district pursuant to U.S.C. 1391(b) in that Defendant resides in this district and all of the acts described in this Complaint occurred in this district.>


The Parties>
3. The Fellowship is a student-led and student-formed unincorporated evangelical Christian association organized around the following purpose statement: The purpose of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is to establish and advance at colleges and universities witnessing communities of students and faculty who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord: growing in love for God, Gods Word, Gods people of every ethnicity and culture, and Gods purposes in the world.>

4. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, (Rutgers) is a public university organized and existing under the laws of the State of New Jersey.>


Factual Background>
A. The Rutgers Student Organization System>

 

5. Rutgers, as New Jerseys largest public university, is subdivided into multiple schools and colleges and is located on several campuses throughout the state. Rutgers largest undergraduate campus is located in New Brunswick, Jersey, and Rutgers largest undergraduate college is Rutgers College.>

6. Every undergraduate student at Rutgers New Brunswick campus is required, in addition to paying tuition, to pay a Student Fee of varying amounts.>

7. The amount of the Student Fee varies depending on the students status as part-time or full-time and on the precise college the student attends within the Rutgers system. 8. The Student Fee ranges in amount from a high of no less than $566.50 per term for a full-time student at Rutgers College to a low of no less than $89.50 per term for a part-time student at Livingston College.>

9. According to the most recently available Catalog for Rutgers New Brunswick campus, the Student Fee provides financial support for student activities, student health services and insurance, and intercollegiate athletics. In addition, the fee is used to amortize the construction loan for the local college center and to provide partial support for overhead operating costs of general facilities that are available to students.>

10. Rutgers College permits student to form and register student organizations. According to the Rutgers College student organization Registration Packet, ONLY REGISTERED STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS WILL BE ELIGIBLE TO RESERVE PROGRAM AND MEETING SPACE ON CAMPUS, OBTAIN OFFICE SPACE, AND RECEIVE FUNDING FROM THE RCGA ALLOCATIONS COMMITTEE. (Emphasis in Original). A copy of the Registration Packet is attached as Exhibit A to this Complaint.>

11. As noted in the Registration Packet, funding is available to registered Rutgers College student organizations through the RCGA Allocations Committee. According to the Constitution of the Rutgers College Governing Association (the RCGA), the purpose of the RCGA Allocations Committee is to objectively recommend the distribution of student activities fees to student groups properly registered at Rutgers College, or a New Brunswick-wide organization. A copy of the RCGA Constitution is attached as Exhibit B to this Complaint.>

12. According to the Rutgers College Student Organization Handbook, for a student organization to be eligible to receive funding from the Student Fee, that organization must be registered at Rutgers College and submit a budget application to the RCGA Allocations Committee. The budget application should include an itemized budget of all programs and expenses, a list of programs in priority order, overhead expenses, the organizations purpose, and a listing of items owned by the organization (inventory). A copy of the Rutgers College Student Organization Handbook is attached as Exhibit C to this Complaint.>

13. The RCGA Allocations Committee considers several things when determining allocations for student organizations, such as whether the requested expenditures serve the interest of Rutgers College, if the programs/events will be held on campus, if its (sic) pertinent to the organizations purpose and availability of funds.>

14. Registered student organizations must maintain all funds whether derived from the Student Fee or generated by the organization itself with the Rutgers College Student Fund Accounting Office (SFAO). It is against Rutgers policy for student organizations to establish or maintain accounts at banks and credit unions.>

15. For a group to become a registered student organization at Rutgers College, it must meet several requirements. These requirements include, but are not limited to, the following (for the complete list of requirements, see Exhibit A):>

  • The organization must have a membership list of at least 15 members.>
  • The organizations purpose must reflect the mission of Rutgers College/Rutgers University and must not duplicate the purpose of currently registered student organizations.>
  • The organization must demonstrate that its services and programs benefit the Rutgers College community.>
  • The organization must maintain non-profit status and cannot be used to promote personal and financial gain and/or commercial enterprise for any of its members.>
  • Student organizations that have a relationship with a parent or national/international organization must present documentation regarding their affiliation and a copy of the parent organizations constitution and/or guidelines when registering.>
  • Organizations may not be an extension of an academic course or department.>
  • Student organizations may not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, religion, race, national origin, physical disability, or sexual orientation.>
  • Organizations will adhere to all Rutgers College and Rutgers University policies and procedures, and local, state and federal laws.>
  • The organizations monies (including dues, donations, fund raising income, and funds allocated by the different colleges) must be maintained in an account at the Rutgers College Student Fund Accounting Office.>

16. Before it can be registered, each student organization must submit a constitution to the Rutgers College Office of Student Involvement. The organizations constitution must include the following clauses (verbatim). If a student organizations constitution does not include these clauses, then it will not be registered by Rutgers College. Membership shall be open to all Rutgers University students and must comply with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, handicap, age, sexual orientation, or political and religious affiliation. Compliance with these laws means that membership, benefits and the election of officers will not be made on the basis of these factors.>

This organization shall abide by all applicable laws of the State of New Jersey and the United States.>

This organization shall abide by all applicable rules and regulations of the University and under the privileges as granted by the Office of Student Involvement, Deans, and Dean of Students where chartered. This organization shall also abide by the rules and regulations of the Board of Governors, the University, and the colleges as provided by the Board of Governors and the Deans of the Colleges.>

17. At present, Rutgers College recognizes a wide variety of registered student organizations broadly organized into eleven categories: Academic/educational, community service, cultural, department directly advised, honorary, leisure, media, performing arts, religious, religious/cultural and social action/political. The most current available list of registered student organizations is attached as Exhibit D to this Complaint.>


B. The Suspension of the InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship>
18. Prior to this year, the Plaintiff, InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship, functioned as a registered student organization and received Student Fee funding.>

19. The Fellowship is a student-led evangelical Christian organization and is affiliated with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA (InterVarsity), a national Christian campus ministry organization.>

20. InterVarsity is highly decentralized. Local chapters are student-led, largely autonomous and may choose to disaffiliate from InterVarsity at any time. The Fellowship, like most InterVarsity chapters, is open to all students, regardless of race, color, sex, national or ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation or disability. The Fellowship welcomes the broadest possible spectrum of individuals to its meetings and other events.>

21. Since membership is open to all Rutgers students, the Fellowship believes that it is necessary if it is to maintain its distinctly evangelical Christian identity for leadership to be reserved for only those individuals who are committed to InterVarsitys Basis of Faith.>

22. InterVarsitys Basis of Faith is a traditional expression of the basic biblical truths of Christianity and is restated below:>

The only true God, the almighty Creator of all things,
existing eternally in three persons –
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — full of love and glory.

The unique divine inspiration,
entire trustworthiness
and authority of the Bible.

The value and dignity of all people:
created in Gods image to live in love and holiness,
but alienated from God and each other because of our sin and guilt, and justly subject to Gods wrath.

Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine,
who lived as a perfect example,
who assumed the judgment due sinners by dying in our place, and who was bodily raised from the dead and ascended as
Savior and Lord.

Justification by Gods grace to all who repent
and put their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

The indwelling presence and transforming power of the Holy
Spirit, who gives to all believers a new life and a new calling
to obedient service.

The unity of all believers in Jesus Christ,
manifest in worshiping and witnessing churches
making disciples throughout the world.

The victorious reign and future personal return of Jesus Christ,
who will judge all people with justice and mercy,
giving over the unrepentant to eternal condemnation
but receiving the redeemed into eternal life.

To God be glory forever.>

23. According to the Fellowships Constitution, Only those persons committed to the Basis of Faith and the Purpose of this organization [the Fellowship] are eligible for leadership positions. The Constitution further states that [b]ecause adherence to biblical authority is a key tenet of InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship, student leaders must seek to adhere to biblical standards and belief in all areas of their lives. A copy of the Fellowships Constitution is attached as Exhibit E to this Complaint.>

24. The requirement that student leaders believe and adhere to the Basis of Faith has — at other universities — prevented individuals hostile to InterVarsitys purpose and message from assuming control of InterVarsity chapters and diluting or destroying InterVarsitys core Christian message and is critical to InterVarsitys religious autonomy and the presentation of its Christian message.>

25. At the beginning of the 2002 Fall Term, the Fellowship following the steps mandated by the Student Organization Registration Packet submitted its constitution for approval by the Office of Student Involvement.>

26. The Office of Student Involvement rejected the Fellowships constitution because it did not contain Rutgers mandatory anti-discrimination statement and because the constitution explicitly stated that [o]nly those persons committed to the Basis of Faith and Purpose of this organization are eligible for leadership positions. According to Rutgers officials, the Fellowships constitution violates Rutgers policy by, among other things, explicitly discriminating on the basis of religion.>

27. Rutgers has suspended the Fellowship and no longer recognizes it as a registered student organization. As a result, the Fellowship does not have access to campus facilities, does not have access to funds that it may have generated through its own fund-raising activities and is not eligible to receive Student Fee Funding.>

28. By suspending the Fellowship and depriving it of the same access to facilities and funding enjoyed by other expressive organizations, Rutgers has violated rights guaranteed to the Fellowship and its students members by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. This violation is causing the Fellowship ongoing and irreparable harm.>

29. Further, the Rutgers student organization registration procedures discriminate on the basis of religious and/or political viewpoint, interfere with the right of free association, impose unconstitutional conditions on the receipt of state benefits, and constitute an illegal prior restraint on the Fellowships right of free speech and assembly. These registration procedures are therefore facially invalid under both the Free Speech and Free Exercise of Religion clauses of the First Amendment. So long as these registration procedures survive, Rutgers is causing ongoing and irreparable harm to the Fellowship and to every student and student organization at Rutgers College.>


Count I, Violation of the Fellowships First Amendment
Right to Freedom of Expression (42 U.S.C. 1983)
30. The Fellowship repeats and realleges each of the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 29 of this Complaint.>

31. By de-recognizing the Fellowship and depriving the Fellowship of access to Rutgers facilities and funds on an equal basis as registered student organizations, and by enacting student organization registration and funding guidelines that explicitly and implicitly discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, Defendant, acting under color of state law, has deprived the Fellowship of its right to freedom of speech and expression secured by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.>

32. Because of Defendants actions, the Fellowship has suffered, and continues to suffer irreparable injury, which cannot be fully compensated by an award of money damages.>

33. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988, the Fellowship is entitled to preliminary and permanent injunctive relief: i) invalidating the applicable Rutgers College registration and funding guidelines; ii) restraining enforcement of Rutgers unconstitutional suspension and/or de-recognition order; and iii) requiring Rutgers to grant the Fellowship access to Rutgers facilities and funds on the same basis as registered student organizations. Additionally, the Fellowship is entitled to the reasonable costs of this lawsuit, including its reasonable attorneys fees.>


Count II, Violation of the Fellowships First Amendment Right
to Free Exercise of Religion (42 U.S.C. 1983)
34. The Fellowship repeats and realleges each of the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 33 of this Complaint.>

35. By de-recognizing the Fellowship and depriving the Fellowship of access to Rutgers facilities and funds on an equal basis as registered student organizations, and by enacting student organization registration and funding guidelines that explicitly and implicitly discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, Defendant, acting under color of state law, deprived the Fellowship of its right to free exercise of religion secured by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.>

36. Rutgers actions are intended to suppress the Fellowships religious practices by preventing the Fellowship from making faith-critical decisions through the use of faith-based criteria.>

37. Because of Defendants actions, the Fellowship has suffered, and continues to suffer irreparable injury, which cannot be fully compensated by an award of money damages.>

38. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988, the Fellowship is entitled to preliminary and permanent injunctive relief: i) invalidating the applicable Rutgers College registration and funding guidelines; ii) restraining enforcement of Rutgers unconstitutional suspension and/or de-recognition order; and iii) requiring Rutgers to grant the Fellowship access to Rutgers facilities and funds on the same basis as registered student organizations. Additionally, the Fellowship is entitled to the reasonable costs of this lawsuit, including its reasonable attorneys fees.>


Count III, Violation of the Fellowships Rights to Freedom of Expression
and Due Process of Law (42 U.S.C. 1983)
39. The Fellowship repeats and realleges each of the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 38 of this Complaint.>

40. Rutgers policies grant the RCGA Allocations Committee wide discretion in determining whether to fund registered student organizations with proceeds from the mandatory Student Fee.>

41. By failing to provide the RCGA Allocations Committee with objective standards from which it can guide its behavior, Rutgers College student registration and funding guidelines are unconstitutionally vague on their face and as applied to the Fellowship and constitute an impermissible prior restraint on the Fellowships speech. The Rutgers College student registration and funding guidelines deprive the Fellowship of the right of free speech secured by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and the due process rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.>

42. Because of Defendants actions, the Fellowship has suffered, and continues to suffer irreparable injury, which cannot be fully compensated by an award of money damages.>

43. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988, the Fellowship is entitled to preliminary and permanent injunctive relief: i) invalidating the applicable Rutgers College registration and funding guidelines; ii) restraining enforcement of Rutgers unconstitutional suspension and/or de-recognition order; and iii) requiring Rutgers to grant the Fellowship access to Rutgers facilities and funds on the same basis as registered student organizations. Additionally, the Fellowship is entitled to the reasonable costs of this lawsuit, including its reasonable attorneys fees.>


Count IV, Violation of the Fellowships Right to
Equal Protection Under the Law (42 U.S.C. 1983)
44. The Fellowship repeats and realleges each of the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 43 of this Complaint.>

45. By refusing to grant the Fellowship access to Rutgers facilities and funds on an equal basis with other expressive organizations, and by enacting student organization registration and funding guidelines that explicitly and implicitly discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, Rutgers, acting under color of state law, has deprived the Fellowship of its right to Equal Protection of the law secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.>

46. Because of Defendants actions, the Fellowship has suffered, and continues to suffer irreparable injury, which cannot be fully compensated by an award of money damages.>

47. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988, the Fellowship is entitled to preliminary and permanent injunctive relief: i) invalidating the applicable Rutgers College registration and funding guidelines; ii) restraining enforcement of Rutgers unconstitutional suspension and/or de-recognition order; and iii) requiring Rutgers to grant the Fellowship access to Rutgers facilities and funds on the same basis as registered student organizations. Additionally, the Fellowship is entitled to the reasonable costs of this lawsuit, including its reasonable attorneys fees.>


Count V, Violation of the Fellowships Right to Freedom
of Association (42 U.S.C. 1983)
48. The Fellowship repeats and realleges each of the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 47 of this First Amended Complaint.>

49. By de-recognizing the Fellowship and depriving the Fellowship of access to Rutgers facilities and funds on an equal basis as registered student organizations, by enacting student organization registration and funding guidelines that explicitly and implicitly discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, and by requiring, as a condition for receiving recognition and funding, that the Fellowship allow any student — regardless of faith affiliation — to be eligible to become a student leader of the Fellowship, Defendant, acting under color of state law, has deprived the Fellowship of its right to freedom of association secured by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.>

50. Because of Defendants actions, the Fellowship has suffered, and continues to suffer irreparable injury, which cannot be fully compensated by an award of money damages.>

51. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988, the Fellowship is entitled to preliminary and permanent injunctive relief: i) invalidating the applicable Rutgers College registration and funding guidelines; ii) restraining enforcement of Rutgers unconstitutional suspension and/or de-recognition order; and iii) requiring Rutgers to grant the Fellowship access to Rutgers facilities and funds on the same basis as registered student organizations. Additionally, the Fellowship is entitled to the reasonable costs of this lawsuit, including its reasonable attorneys fees.>


Count VI, Unconstitutional Conditions (42 U.S.C. 1983)>
52. The Fellowship repeats and realleges each of the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 51 of this Complaint.>

53. By de-recognizing the Fellowship and depriving the Fellowship of access to Rutgers facilities and funds on an equal basis as registered student organizations, by enacting student organization registration and funding guidelines that explicitly and implicitly discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, and by requiring, as a condition for receiving recognition and funding, that the Fellowship allow any student — regardless of faith affiliation — to be eligible to become a student leader of the Fellowship, Defendant, acting under color of state law has placed unconstitutional conditions on the receipt of state benefits and has therefore deprived the Fellowship of its rights to freedom of speech, expression and association secured by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.>

54. Because of Defendants actions, the Fellowship has suffered, and continues to suffer irreparable injury, which cannot be fully compensated by an award of money damages.>

55. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988, the Fellowship is entitled to preliminary and permanent injunctive relief: i) invalidating the applicable Rutgers College registration and funding guidelines; ii) restraining enforcement of Rutgers unconstitutional suspension and/or de-recognition order; and iii) requiring Rutgers to grant the Fellowship access to Rutgers facilities and funds on the same basis as registered student organizations. Additionally, the Fellowship is entitled to the reasonable costs of this lawsuit, including its reasonable attorneys fees.>

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship respectfully requests that the Court enter judgment against Defendant Rutgers University and provide Plaintiff with the following relief:>

(1) A declaration that Rutgers student organization registration and funding guidelines violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution;>

(2) A preliminary and permanent injunction: i) invalidating the applicable Rutgers College registration and funding guidelines; ii) restraining enforcement of Rutgers unconstitutional suspension and/or de-recognition order; and iii) requiring Rutgers to grant the Fellowship access to Rutgers facilities and funds on the same basis as registered student organizations;>

(3) The Fellowships reasonable attorneys fees, costs, and other costs and disbursements in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1988; and>

(4) All other further relief to which the Fellowship may be entitled.

____________________________________
Demetrios K. Stratis
Law Office of Demetrios K. Stratis, LLC
201 Willowbrook Blvd
Fourth Floor
Wayne, New Jersey 07470
(973) 256-7700

Of Counsel:
>

David A. French
GREENEBAUM DOLL & MCDONALD, PLLC
300 West Vine Street, Suite 1100
Lexington, Kentucky 40507
(859) 231-8500
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF

Schools: Rutgers University – New Brunswick