Intervarsity Christian Fellowship/USA v. University of Iowa

June 2018
University of Iowa (Public college or university)
Iowa City, IA, United States

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Political Orientation:
  • Incident Responses:
    Student sanctioned
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation Federal Court of Appeals
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


Intervarsity Christian Fellowship is a chapter of Intervarsity USA, and they are both Christian ministries that aim to establish and advance “witnessing communities of students and faculty who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.” Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s leaders must affirm the group’s statement of faith, which encompasses the “basic biblical truths of Christianity.” In June 2018, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship was informed by university administrators that language in its constitution requiring its leaders to be Christian violated the university’s human rights policy. The group refused to change its leadership requirements, and as a result the university deregistered the group.

On August 6, 2018, the two groups filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa against various university administrators and the university, alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as their rights under the Iowa Constitution and Iowa Human Rights Act. They moved for partial summary judgment on their First Amendment claims, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. On September 27, 2019, the district court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment in part. In particular, the court ruled that the university and its administrators could not enforce its human rights policy against Intervarsity based on the content of its leadership policies, and granted some of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims.

The defendants filed a notice of appeal on November 5, 2019 with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. This case is ongoing.