The student group maintains the student’s actions, rather than orientation, were the reason he was denied the position.
“It’s deeply ironic that school officials tried using the University’s nondiscrimination policy to discriminate against religion,” said Baxter.
“They knew this was wrong, yet did it anyway. We’re pleased the court has recognized that such blatant religious discrimination brings personal consequences.”
Judge Jonathan A. Kobes wrote a partial concurrence and partial dissent to the panel decision.
“The law is clear: state organizations may not target religious groups for differential treatment or withhold an otherwise available benefit solely because they are religious,” he said.
The individual defendants can make the case that “they are either plainly incompetent or they knowingly violated the Constitution,” he said. “Either way, they should not get qualified immunity.”
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After the appellate court’s ruling, a lower court will hold further proceedings and determine legal damages.
The controversy began in late 2017, when the university found merit in a complaint from a then-sophomore student member who said Business Leaders in Christ had denied him an officer position because of his openly gay sexual orientation.
The group rejected that claim in its lawsuit, saying that the student “expressly stated” that he rejected its religious beliefs and would not follow them. The group’s executive board said it was concerned the member did not share the group’s view of “the Bible’s guiding authority and its teaching on sexual conduct,” Courthouse News Service reported in December 2017. The group said it welcomes gay members but decided his beliefs and pursuit of same-sex relationships rendered him ineligible.