A federal court has ruled in favor of a Christian student group in a discrimination suit against Wayne State University after the school revoked its certification for requiring group leaders to be Christian.
In 2017, Wayne State penalized InterVarsity Christian Fellowship by withdrawing its status as an official university organization based on the school’s non-discrimination policy, as the religious group only offered leadership roles to its Christian members.
The university demanded InterVarsity amend its bylaws and withdraw the religious qualification, but the group refused. As a result, Wayne State canceled the group’s official university sanction in October of 2017, prompting InterVarsity to file a lawsuit in 2018.
District Judge Robert Cleland issued a permanent injunction on Monday, noting that the university overstepped its authority and that the First Amendment gives religious organizations the power to choose their own leaders.
As part of the court’s ruling, Cleland remarked that delisting the organization had significant repercussions on its ability to meet its objectives on campus. He said that the “plaintiffs could no longer obtain free and low-cost meeting spaces on campus, and they were relegated to less attractive spaces when any spaces were available.”
Wayne State admitted that the court’s decision was not what they had expected and university administration is in the process of reviewing the ruling.
“Unfortunately, despite the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship being granted everything it requested in a timely manner, it continued to pursue litigation, forcing the university to spend time and taxpayer dollars in an unnecessary lawsuit,” the university said.
“Now, two years later, the judge has awarded $1 in nominal damages, as well as the opportunity for InterVarsity to continue the lawsuit in pursuit of compensatory damages,” it added.