Lawsuit against Univ. of Florida ended discrimination against Christian group

11th Circuit dismisses lawsuit because of changed policy, but university continues to defend its actions
Thursday, October 29, 2009

ATLANTA — As a result of a lawsuit filed by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and Christian Legal Society, the University of Florida has changed its policy that discriminated against a Christian men’s fraternity and will now allow the fraternity to operate on campus as an official student organization. Because the university changed its policy, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday, but university officials continue to defend their previous policy.

“Christian student groups should not be singled out for discrimination,” said ADF Legal Counsel Timothy J. Tracey, who argued the case before the 11th Circuit in December of last year while with the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom. “The right to associate with people of like mind and interest applies to all student groups on a public university campus. We are pleased that the University of Florida has recognized Beta Upsilon Chi’s right to define itself as a Christian men’s organization. However, because the university continues to defend its old policy, we intend to monitor the situation there to ensure that the school does not attempt to return to its old policy.”

“The success of this lawsuit is seen in the university’s recognition that religious liberty requires that religious groups be allowed to draw their leaders and members from those persons who agree with the group’s beliefs, just as other groups are allowed to do,” said Senior Counsel Kim Colby with the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom.

In 2007, while allowing other groups to determine their membership according to shared values, university officials had refused to recognize BYX as a registered student group because the fraternity limits its membership to Christian men.  The university claimed that BYX was engaged in religious discrimination in violation of the university’s non-discrimination policy. As a result of the group’s lawsuit, the university has adopted a new policy allowing religious groups to select leaders and members on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Attorneys with ADF and CLS filed the lawsuit Beta Upsilon Chi v. Machen in July 2007 and later filed a motion asking the court to halt the discrimination while the court considered the case.  After an adverse ruling from the district court in July 2008, the 11th Circuit granted an injunction requiring the university to recognize BYX while the case was on appeal.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.