Wins Settlement From
Mo. State University
Missouri State University has agreed to pay $25,000 to a former student who was dismissed from the University's counseling program because of his Christian beliefs. MSU is making the payment to Andrew Cash in return for his dismissal of a lawsuit he filed against the university.
Cash was pursuing a Master's Degree in Counseling from Missouri State after enrolling in the program in 2007. He was booted from the program in 2014 when he stated he would be unable to affirm a homosexual relationship in a counseling session because of his religious beliefs. Cash said he would refer such clients to another counselor.
Cash had served his internship for his Master's degree at the Springfield Marriage and Family Institute, a Christian counseling center. When Missouri State officials learned that the Institute adhered to Biblical standards regarding homosexuality, they expunged 51 hours of his internship counseling from his academic record. Cash was then instructed to undergo 10 hours of "remediation" training because he had not repudiated his Christian convictions about the subject.
Cash's faculty advisor, Dr. Kristi Perryman, scolded him, saying that his behavior was "discriminatory toward gay persons." She said that his Christian values on marriage and human sexuality were "unethical," and in conflict with the Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association. When Cash appealed the removal of his internship credits, he was then dismissed from the counseling program altogether despite the fact that he had a 3.81 grade point average and was nearing the completion of his Master's degree.
Andrew Cash filed his civil rights lawsuit last summer in U.S. District Court in Western Missouri. He alleged that the University's actions were a violation of his First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
In his complaint, Cash asserted that three counseling department faculty members and the University's Board of Directors had "denigrated his personal and professional abilities" because of his religious convictions. Cash claimed that University officials had caused him "devastating emotional distress and financial hardship" by ruining his opportunities for a career in counseling.
Cash was represented in his lawsuit by Thomas Olp, an attorney with the Thomas More Society. Olp says that no Christian student should be subjected to academic bigotry because of their deeply held religious beliefs. "Andrew Cash's religious convictions are protected by the U.S. Constitution and should have been respected in an academic environment."
"We were honored to have represented Andrew in his quest to serve others with professional counseling, while maintaining his religious beliefs. The good news now is that Andrew Cash will be able to move on with his life to finalize a degree at a university that respects his rights of conscience," Old added.
Missouri State University says the $25,000 settlement will be paid from the college's legal defense fund. The amount is the estimated cost for Cash to obtain a master's degree at another higher education institution.
| Andrew Cash isn't the first student to confront harsh anti-Christian hostility in the counseling and social work departments at Missouri State University. Twelve years ago a student named Emily Brooker faced the same anti-Christian bigotry from bullies on the University's faculty.
Brooker was a student in MSU's Social Work program in the fall of 2005. She was enrolled at the time in a class called "Social Welfare Policy." As part of the class, a representative from PROMO, the state's leading homosexual rights group, was invited to speak to the social work students.
Following the presentation, each member of the class was instructed to write a letter to state legislators advocating for the right of homosexuals to adopt children. Brooker declined, saying it conflicted with her personal standards and religious beliefs. Her professor then filed a grievance against her.
Brooker then was brought before an inquisition of faculty members who aggressively interrogated her about her religious values. She was then ordered to write a paper demonstrating that she had "lessened the gap" between her personal beliefs and the "professional obligations" of the social work "ethics code." Brooker was threatened with removal from the program and loss of her diploma if she did not comply.
Emily Brooker then sued Missouri State University with the help of local Springfield attorney Dee Wampler. The University reached an out-of-court settlement in which they agreed to pay Brooker $27,000 to cover her tuition and living expenses for two years of graduate school. The grievance was removed from Brooker's academic record, and the professor was placed on academic leave.
The University commissioned an independent study of the College's Social Work Department in the wake of the controversy. The study results revealed what the reviewers described as a "toxic environment." The study concluded that faculty members "browbeat" students "with possible bias against students who are faith-based." The report further stated: "Neither of the reviewers have ever witnessed such a negative, hostile, and mean work environment."
The final report from the independent study stated that the School of Social Work was such an exceedingly hostile learning environment that the University should either close the Department, or disband the faculty and restart the Department with a fresh staff. Then-University President Michael Nietzel said the report was "as negative a review of an academic program I have ever seen."
Yet it is clear that little more than a decade later little has changed in the unfriendly confines of Missouri State University's counseling and social work departments. Christian students with a heart for counseling and supporting those in need of therapy remain targets of harassment and vilification because they hold to the healthy principles of their faith.
It is a disgrace that Missourians' tax dollars are supporting this kind of blatant and brutal prejudice among educators who are supposed to be professionals in their field. You can let the Board of Governors of Missouri State University know how you feel about this anti-Christian atmosphere by using this link:
MSU Board of Governors