Editor’s note: WSU errs in ousting Christian group

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

A Christian student group was allowed back on the campus of Wayne State University last week, just two days after it brought a federal lawsuit against the university.

So while InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which has had a presence on campus for 75 years, should never have been barred, at least Wayne State officials backed down.

The issue here was that Wayne State “derecognized” InterVarsity because the group had the audacity to require its leaders to practice what they preach (i.e. recognize the faith). Somehow that violated school policy. Why be involved with an organization if you fundamentally disagree? Participation with InterVarsity is completely voluntary.

Wayne State’s response to the suit was to allow the group back to campus, and a university spokesman says that’s not an interim decision.

According to the official statement from the school: “Wayne State University values student groups as an integral part of campus life and co-curricular learning. We strive to foster student groups that are inclusive, diverse, and expand student experiences. After a review of the situation and communicating with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship organization, Wayne State has 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.”

It’s unfortunate Wayne State couldn’t have come to that conclusion before first kicking InterVarsity (one of the oldest chapters in the country) off campus late last year. The university canceled the group’s reserved meetings, and required it to pay high rent if it still wanted to hold its Bible studies and other activities on campus.

“We hope the school will make this change permanent, so no other students have to go through what we’ve been through over the last six months,” said Cristina Garza, former president and current member of the InterVarsity group, in a statement. The Becket law firm, which fights for religious liberty, is representing the student group.

Wayne State’s treatment of these students was clearly discriminatory, and it should refund the $2,720 InterVarsity was charged. Student groups should be allowed to pick leaders who share in their mission, without penalty.