11th Circuit orders Univ. of Fla. to recognize Christian fraternity
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ordered University of Florida officials Wednesday to stop discriminating against a Christian fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), while a lawsuit filed by Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defense Fund attorneys against school officials is on appeal.
“The 11th Circuit seems to understand that Christian student groups cannot be singled out for discrimination. The right to associate with people of like mind and interest applies to all student groups on a public university campus,” said Litigation Counsel Timothy J. Tracey with CLS’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom. “We are confident that the court will not allow the University of Florida to continue to deprive BYX of this right by forcing the group to abandon its identity as a Christian men’s organization.”
University officials had refused to recognize BYX as a registered student group because the group limits its membership to Christian men. The school does not apply a similar standard to other student organizations, permitting various groups to limit their membership to those who share the organization’s views.
Without official recognition, BYX cannot receive critical benefits given to other student groups, such as access to meeting space and the ability to advertise and recruit members on campus. Wednesday’s injunction from the 11th Circuit means that the university must officially recognize BYX while the case moves forward.
A motion for summary judgment is still pending in federal district court, but BYX appealed the case to the 11th Circuit when the district court denied a preliminary injunction to BYX. The fraternity had gone the entire 2007-2008 school year without official recognition.
CLS and ADF attorneys filed Beta Upsilon Chi v. Machen in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Gainesville Division, in July 2007. The injunction from the 11th Circuit is available here.
In December 2006, the University of Georgia agreed to recognize BYX on its campus after CLS and ADF attorneys filed suit there.
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities (www.centerforacademicfreedom.org). ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. The CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom is a team of Christian attorneys allied with ADF to defend religious liberty and human life.