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Press Release

Alaska Attorney General Joins 15 State Attorneys General to Defend Student Groups' Freedom to Choose Leaders that Share their Beliefs

March 13, 2020

(Anchorage, AK) – On March 12, Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson joined attorneys general from 15 states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The brief supports a decision ruling that University of Iowa officials violated the First Amendment rights of student groups on campus by forbidding InterVarsity from choosing leaders who affirm the group’s religious beliefs.

“Allowing a student group to require its leaders to agree with the group’s beliefs should not be controversial,” said Attorney General Kevin Clarkson. “Without that right, student groups will be forced to accept leaders who reject their beliefs: For instance, Democrat organi­zations could be forced to accept Republicans as leaders; and Buddhist groups forced to hand over control to Muslims,” AG Clarkson added.

Iowa school officials selectively targeted groups like InterVarsity for unfavorable treatment while allowing at least one other religious group—and countless nonreligious groups—to choose their leaders based on factors like religion, sex, creed, and political views.
The university’s actions threaten the rights of religious and secular student groups alike. If officials can target reli­gious groups like InterVarsity for disfavored treatment, nothing prevents other universities from similarly singling out an LGBT organization, environmental group, gun-rights association, or countless others. As the brief says, “[t]he rights of all groups on campus—no matter their views or beliefs—rise and fall together.”

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson joins the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.

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Department Media Contact: Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr at (907) 269-5285 or maria.bahr@alaska.gov.