University Wants InterVarsity to Drop Lawsuit After Allowing Christian Group Back on Campus

Wayne State University's Old Main academic building in Detroit, Michigan. | (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Del arte)

A university in Michigan says legal action against it should cease after it decided to allow a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship back on campus. 

Earlier this year, Wayne State University in Detroit reversed a decision removing InterVarsity's official recognition as a student organization due to the group's requirement that its leaders be Christian.

The Becket Fund, which represents InterVarsity, asked a district court on Tuesday to grant the Christian student organization "permanent injunctive relief" guaranteeing its place at Wayne State.

The request came in response to a motion to dismiss that Wayne State filed in May regarding the case. 

A representative of the university emailed a statement to The Christian Post on Thursday arguing that the further legal action is not required.

"InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is currently on our campus as a recognized student group, and it remains welcome here. Since InterVarsity was reinstated to Wayne State's campus in March with its charter intact, we assumed there was no longer an issue. However, attorneys for the group continued to pursue litigation against the university," they said.

"Wayne State had no choice but to defend itself and file a motion to dismiss. This apparently is the reason for the news release issued by the Becket law firm. To be clear, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is welcome on our campus and we have no intention of challenging its status."

Becket Senior Counsel Lori Windham said in an email to CP on Thursday that they believed Wayne State's earlier decision allowing InterVarsity back was only a temporary fix.

"Wayne State temporarily let InterVarsity back on campus and called it a 'good deed,' but now the university is asking a federal court for the power to kick them off at any time," said Windham.

"Wayne State told the court that it's 'discriminatory' and turning students into 'second-class citizens' for a Christian student group to have Christian leaders."

Last October, Wayne State decided to de-recognize InterVarsity as a student group over the organization's policy of only allowing Christians to serve as leaders.

As a result, InterVarsity could not take advantage of certain campus benefits, like reserving meeting rooms for free, hosting free tables at events, and applying for certain campus funding.

In March, InterVarsity filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Western Michigan with the aid of Becket against Wayne State.

The suit argued in part that the actions taken against InterVarsity over its leadership standards were hypocritical, given that the university allows other student groups to be strict in their choosing of leaders.

"Wayne State — an arm of the Michigan State government — makes the remarkable claim that it violates university policies for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to choose only Christian leaders rather than Jewish, Muslim, or atheist ones," read the lawsuit.

"Wayne State rightly allows fraternities to have only male leaders, female athletic clubs to have only female leaders, and African-American clubs to have only African-American leaders. But Wayne State cannot then say it is wrong for a Christian club to have only Christian leaders."

Two days later, the university reversed its decision, saying in a statement published by the Detroit Free Press that they "decided to recertify the group as an official student organization."

"The InterVarsity student group is committed to welcoming and including all students, and the university will not intervene in the group's leadership selection," the March statement added.

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