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Student's 'Star Chamber' inquisition prompts lawsuit

A lawsuit has been filed against Missouri State University after school officials forced a student to endure a “Star Chamber” interrogation because she would not sign a letter endorsing homosexual adoptions.

“The university is supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, and professors should be tolerant of the opinions of Christian students as well as those of non-Christian students,” said David French, the senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund and director of the ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom.

“But at Missouri State University, officials have singled out a student for punishment simply because she refused to write and sign a letter to the state legislature supporting homosexual adoption,” he said.

The “Star Chamber” was a 1983 movie about an organization of powerful judges who decided to take the law into their own hands and dispense justice as they saw fit, within or outside of the boundaries of the existing law.

At Missouri State, the defendants were operating similarly, the lawsuit said. “The Defendants engaged in indoctrination, not education,” the lawsuit said. The student was subjected to “leftist diatribes” by a professor, Frank G. Kauffman.

It also alleges he was the one who dictated to students they must advocate for homosexual adoptions instead of choosing projects from among the hundreds of other issues available.

The school’s “Star Chamber” for student Emily Brooker involved a two-and-a-half-hour interrogation by faculty members who demanded answers to personal questions such as, “Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners?” and “Do you think I am a sinner?”

The ADF said its complaint, filed this week in federal district court, is intended to defend the First Amendment rights of the student who was punished.

Brooker was accused of a “Level 3” grievance involving an alleged violation of the School of Social Workers’ Standards of Essential Functioning in Social Work Education. The “Level 3” is the highest level of grievance that an individual can face, and university officials told Brooker she violated three of the standards: diversity, interpersonal skills and professional behavior.

The trouble arose from Kauffman’s assignment that his students do a project “promoting homosexual foster homes and adoption.”

The project required that the entire class write and then individually sign a letter to Missouri state lawmakers supporting the homosexual community’s platform plank of adoption “rights.”

Brooker refused to sign it. The school also retaliated against her for raising objections and required her to sign a contract that violated her religious beliefs in order for her to graduate, the lawsuit said.

It seeks compensation for the damages she suffered because of the discriminatory treatment.

“In an institution of higher learning, students should be marked on the quality of their work, not discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs,” said French. “At MSU, a Christian student was interrogated by faculty members who attacked her religious beliefs and threatened to withhold her degree. This is a clear violation of her First Amendment rights.”

Court records in the case show the defendants include the school’s board of governors: Michael L. Franks, Mary Sheid, James Buford, Michael Duggan, John L. Winston, Brian Hammons, Phyllis Washington and Cathy Smith, as well as Michael Nietzel, the school president, along with the gang of professors.

“Defendants, by policy and practice, stifled and silenced Ms. Brooker’s speech and exercise of her religious beliefs because they fell outside the orthodoxy of the School of Social Work and MSU,” the complaint alleged.

“The ADF’s Center for Academy Freedom is set up to defend religious freedom at America’s public universities.

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