University of Iowa Sued for Denying Teaching Position to Pro-Lifer

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 10, 2014   |   5:41PM   |   Des Moines, IA

What do you call it when a nationally-known university denies a teaching position to someone who is well-qualified for the job but is pro-life? Teresa Wagner calls it employment discrimination and the former staffer for the Family Research Council has filed a lawsuit against the University of Iowa.

On Thursday, a federal appeals court will hear Wagner’s case against the University of Iowa law school, which she accuses of refusing to hire her despite her high qualifications merely because she is pro-life. Dean Carolyn Jones reportedly would not hire Wagner merely because of her service to the pro-life movement as a legal analyst for pro-life groups.

universityofiowaWall Street Journal op-ed by Peter Berkowitz profiled the case, as did NewsMax:

According to Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a constitutional scholar, the legal question is “whether a state law-school may deny employment to faculty candidates because of their political beliefs.”

Wagner had been working part-time for the law school when two full-time slots for legal-writing instructors became available. She applied and became a finalist for one of the openings, according to Berkowitz.

Wagner’s credentials were extensive; she was a trial attorney; had edited scholarly books, and written a legal brief used in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving partial-birth abortions. The law school committee dealing with faculty appointments recommended giving her the job.

But the overwhelmingly liberal law-school faculty voted against Wagner; Jones said she “flunked” her interview.



Of the two available positions one went to a liberal who subsequently resigned. The second is being staffed by adjunct instructors including one with known pro-abortion sensibilities, according to Berkowitz.

Wagner sued the school. A jury agreed that her rights had been violated. However the panel could not agree to hold the law dean exclusively responsible. Through legal machinations the case was dismissed. Wager wants the appeals court to order a new trial.