A community college in New York has been presented with a demand letter from the American Center for Law and Justice to halt a professor's classroom practices that allegedly have damaged at least one student – so far.
The letter from the ACLJ targets Suffolk County Community College and will be the prelude to a federal lawsuit if the issue isn't resolved, the organization said.
At issue is a professor's demand that students "change their own personal viewpoints or state that they are unsure of whether their own personal beliefs are correct" on religious issues, according to the letter.
That is an expression of hostility to religion, the letter explains.
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The ACLJ said it is representing Gina DeLuca, a student who has been punished with lower grades and has been labeled "closed-minded" by a professor, who remained unidentified in the letter, because he demands that students acknowledge the possibility that God does not exist in order to participate in his philosophy class, which is required for graduation.
"The ACLJ has sent a letter demanding that the school end its discriminatory actions against DeLuca or face a federal lawsuit," the organization's announcement said.
"This is another terrible example of how some in the academic world believe it's acceptable to violate the First Amendment rights afforded to all students, especially students who hold Christian beliefs," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.
"The actions by this professor clearly reflect hostility toward religion. To require students to acknowledge the possibility that God does not exist in order to participate in a class is not only wrong, but clearly violates the constitutional rights of students who hold religious beliefs," he said. "Unless this school takes corrective action, we will go to federal court to protect the rights of our client."
Attempts by WND to reach the school for comment were unsuccessful.
In the letter to Suffolk County Attorney Christine Malafi, the ACLJ explained the problem started when DeLuca took the required philosophy class. She's been a student at the school for two years, and holds a 3.9 grade point average. She even got good grades in the philosophy class "until her religious beliefs became known," the organization said.
"The grades she received on class assignments dropped significantly once God and religion became prominent topics of class discussion and her refusal to compromise her Christian faith became apparent," the ACLJ said. "This is because the course goes beyond merely requiring knowledge of prominent philosophers and their arguments or ways of thinking, which Gina does not object to."
In addition to the lower grades, the ACLJ said, the professor has called the student "closed-minded," "uncritical," "hurtful," and "blinded by belief."
"While a college professor may encourage students to be informed about viewpoints and arguments that differ from their own, it is inappropriate – and unconstitutional – for a public college professor to make passing a required course (and thus graduation) contingent upon a student's willingness to express agreement with philosophical viewpoints that conflict with her religious beliefs," the ACLJ said.
The school now has a deadline of April 14 to meet the requirements of the letter, the ACLJ said.
The law firm that specializes in constitutional issues also has launched an online petition to demand the college discontinue its denial of the student's First Amendment rights.