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Business Leaders in Christ v. The University of Iowa

Business Leaders in Christ v. University of Iowa, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, June 4, 2019

Amicus: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Plaintiff is a student organization that was denied recognition because of its faith-based leadership requirements, while other organizations were permitted to have similar belief-based leadership requirements that were deemed more in keeping with the university’s mission. The district court held that University of Iowa administrators had violated BLinC’s First Amendment rights by engaging in viewpoint discrimination in the application of its nondiscrimination policy, but granted the administrators qualified immunity, holding that the right was not clearly established.

FIRE argued that the district court had framed the constitutional question too narrowly -- focusing only on the selective application of a nondiscrimination policy -- and that it was clearly established that viewpoint discrimination in a limited public forum violates the First Amendment. FIRE pointed to the Eighth Circuit’s denial of qualified immunity to Iowa State University administrators in Gerlich v. Leath, which involved the selective application of a university trademark policy, to argue that the district court’s decision contravened Eighth Circuit precedent.