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Business Leaders in Christ v. University of Iowa

A Case Concerning Religious Exemptions

Key Date: March 22, 2021 • 8th Circuit Ruling Issued
Legal Team: Plaintiffs: Daniel Blomberg, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Type: Religious Exemption Cases: Schools & Teachers

In January of 2019, a federal judge ruled that the University of Iowa violated the First Amendment rights of a group called Business Leaders in Christ by de-recognizing it because its “statement of faith” bans those in LGBTQ relationships from leadership roles.

The University of Iowa appealed the ruling that it violated the rights of a student group that requires members to agree that sex should only take place within different-sex marriages by telling them they could no longer meet on campus when other groups are allowed to limit membership to those who agree with the organization’s positions.

The case was argued before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in September 2020.

On March 22nd, 2021, the 8th Circuit issued its decision reviewing the trial court’s ruling that the university violated rights of a religious student group that requires members to agree that sex should only take place within different-sex marriages by telling them they could no longer meet on campus when other groups were allowed to limit membership to those who agree with the organization’s positions.  The University did not appeal the merits of the trial court ruling or its injunction against prohibiting the group from meeting on campus, only whether individual school officials were immune from suit due to “qualified immunity.”  The 8th Circuit held they were not immune on the free speech and expressive association claims and could be held personally liable for damages on those claims because the law on those claims was clearly established but could not be held personally liable on the free exercise claims in the case, where it was not


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