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Federal court rules on leadership within religious student organizations

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A federal court has ruled that Wayne State University cannot require a Christian student organization to allow non-Christians to lead it.

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship sued the university after its 2017 application for student organization status was denied. School officials had cited the university’s anti-discrimination policy in rejecting the request.

Monday, a US District Court ruled the policy violated the group’s rights to free speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.

Attorney Lori Windham represented Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. She says the school did not apply its policy equitably.

"It allows lots of other organizations to choose their leaders in different ways," said Windham. "Fraternities and sororities can choose the members by sex or even gender identity. Same for clubs sports, political organizations can ask that you agree with a statement of political principles. But a religious organization isn't allowed to ask that you agree with the things that they believe."

The university had allowed the organization to return to campus before the ruling. The court awarded the group one dollar in damages.