A federal judge recently ruled against a Georgia-based university over its request to dismiss a lawsuit by a Christian ministry, which was banned from campus last fall.
"Christian students cannot be treated as second-class citizens. It's ridiculous that a university would boot a Christian student club from campus simply for exercising its First Amendment right to free speech," said Alliance Defense Fund litigation staff counsel Joseph Martins, in a statement.
In April 2006, officials at Savannah State University suspended Commissioned II Love over the members' sharing of the Gospel, which it labeled as "harassment," and for "hazing" – as the school had labeled the act of group leaders washing the feet of new members as Jesus did with his disciples in the Bible. School suspension meant the group was denied access to university facilities and benefits.
School officials contend foot washing is "an activity which endangers or is likely to endanger the physical health of a student, regardless of the student's willingness to participate in such activity," according to ADF.
However, it was on Sept. 11, 2006 when school officials formally expelled the group when it claimed the ministry violated its suspension when some of is members personally participated in a contemporary Christian music event.
"These officials have shut down this Christian student club and shut down its ability to follow in Jesus' footsteps through prayer, foot washing, and evangelism," argued attorney Barry Hodge of the National Legal Foundation, in a statement. "The First Amendment prohibits the government from censoring this free exercise of religion."
Attorneys with the National Legal Foundation and from ADF Center for Academic Freedom filed the lawsuit on behalf of Commissioned II Love on March 1.
Since the federal judge last Friday turned down Savannah State University's request to dismiss the suit, the school has until Sept. 4 to file a response to the Christian student group's complaint. No hearing has yet been set for this motion.