Frank G. Kauffman (Missouri State University)
A Missouri State University professor has been placed on leave as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by a student who reported that Frank G. Kauffman had tried to force her to sign a petition supporting “gay” adoptions.
According to the Alliance Defense Fund, which brought the case on behalf of student Emily Brooker, officials at the school reacted quickly to the lawsuit, agreeing to a settlement that repaired damage inflicted when she was punished for expressing her Christian views on the subject.
“Being a Christian shouldn’t make you a second-class citizen on a college campus,” said David French, the senior legal counsel for the ADF. “Instead of being a marketplace of ideas, some professors try to silence or even punish students whose beliefs do not conform to their personal worldview.
“To its credit, the university launched an investigation immediately after Emily’s case was filed and has taken appropriate action against the professor and appropriate action to repair Emily’s reputation and record. I only wish other administrations would respond as quickly to violations of students’ rights,” French said.
The university confirmed the settlement, announcing that it would “clear Brooker’s official record,” and pay damages of $9,000. It also agreed to “waive academic fees at Missouri State University, or in lieu thereof, reimburse an amount equal to two years of degree work toward a Master of Social Work degree” at costs estimated at $12,000, “plus Brooker will receive $3,000 per year in living expense for two years of graduate education.”
“We acted on these allegations as soon as we became aware of them,” said school President Michael Nietzel. He said there also will be a comprehensive evaluation of the Social Work Program, and the school will work on implementing policies regarding freedom of speech and expression.
Brooker, pursuing a degree from Missouri State’s School of Social Work, had been ordered by Kauffman, a professor of a required course, to write a letter to the Missouri Legislature expressing support for homosexual adoption.
After she refused on religious grounds Kauffman brought against her a Level 3 Grievance in the school’s legal system, the most serious charge possible, which left Brooker facing the possibility of having her degree withheld.
In addition, Brooker was subjected to a 2 ?-hour “Star Chamber” type of questioning from an ethics committee whose members did not allow her to have representation in attendance. During that questioning, she was asked personally invasive questions such as, “Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners?” and “Do you think I am a sinner?” the ADF reported.
The school’s answer was to purge the grievance from Brooker’s academic record and require Kauffman to resign from his administrative duties. He also was ordered onto a non-teaching leave for the rest of the semester, the ADF said.
“We commend the university for taking the proper steps to make things right,” said French, who also serves in the ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom, which works on religious freedoms at American public universities.
Tony Messenger, a columnist with the Springfield News-Leader, had urged the university to get the case settled quickly.
Otherwise, he noted, there could have been a firestorm involving the school.
That’s because, he noted, that investigators would find that Kauffman is a frequent letter-writer to the newspaper, often personally advocating the position he tried to force Brooker to support publicly.
Earlier this year, the columnist said, Kauffman wrote in response to another comment: “It’s interesting to note that nowhere in her piece does she mention children or the 1,891 children languishing in foster care waiting to be adopted. The issue should be framed in terms of couples, gay, straight or otherwise, who are approved by the state should be able to care for children. The ‘precise and calculated agenda’ she refers to is the struggle on behalf of gays and lesbians to regain their rights of citizenship that we so quickly deny based on ignorance and intolerance.”
“A year ago,” said Messenger, “Kauffman wrote a letter to the editor about the war. ‘The cornerstone of our democracy in a free society is to question the policies of our government,’ he said. A former student says that’s what she did, and her professor responded with the strong arm of the law. Ironic, perhaps.”
A Fox News report noted that the resolution could “reverberate” through academia.
“No one – not the president of the United States, not the Supreme Court – can rightfully require you to advocate for policies with which you disagree,” the report said. “The right not to speak is fundamental to human liberty. Indeed, freedom of conscience cannot exist without it.”
French said the Brooker case illustrates the brazenness with which universities now violate a student’s freedom of conscience.
“A person was forced to publicly state a position on a hot-button cultural issue to her own government that she disagrees with. You can’t get a more fundamental violation of the First Amendment than that,” he said.
The lawsuit said students were subjected to “leftist diatribes” from Kauffman, and he then dictated to students they must advocate, in writing and on the record, for homosexual adoptions instead of choosing projects from among the hundreds of other social issues available.
Court records in the case show the defendants included 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.
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