The University of Idaho violated the religious liberty and free speech rights of three law students by punishing them due to their biblical beliefs about marriage, according to a new federal lawsuit filed Monday.
According to the suit, the three students – Peter Perlot, Mark Miller, and Ryan Alexander – were attending a community event on April 1 to condemn the use of an LGBT slur when a fellow student approached them and asked why the Christian Legal Society (CLS) requires its officers to affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman. The three men are members of the Christian Legal Society chapter at the University of Idaho.
One member responded that the chapter "requires this because it is the only view of marriage and sexuality affirmed in the Bible," according to the suit.
Thereafter, a second CLS member "left a handwritten note for the student" and told her that he "would be happy to discuss this further" so they could "both fully be heard and better understand one another's views," the suit says.
Days later, all three CLS members received "no-contact" orders from the university's Office of Civil Rights and Investigations, prohibiting any communication between the members and the student.
"Instead of allowing the students to disagree civilly and respectfully with one another and to discuss these important issues, the University chose instead to censor Plaintiffs," the suit says.
The punishment, the suit says, violates the students' rights under the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause.
"Students of all religious and ideological stripes must be free to discuss and debate the important issues of our day, especially law students who are preparing for a career that requires civil dialogue among differing viewpoints," said ADF legal counsel Michael Ross. "Yet the University of Idaho is shutting down Peter, Mark, and Ryan because of their religious beliefs. This is illegal behavior from any government official, and we urge the university officials to right their discriminatory actions immediately."
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.