Missouri State University has joined a growing number of government institutions that punish Christians for their biblical view of marriage and homosexual relationships, dismissing a student from a counseling program for expressing concern about counseling same-sex duos, according to a new lawsuit.
WND has documented the legal punishment of photographers, florists, bakers and others for upholding the Christian definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Now a lawsuit alleges Missouri State officials have punished former counseling student Andrew Cash for his support of traditional marriage.
The lawsuit from the Thomas More Society alleges the discrimination was carried out by Missouri State governors Peter Hofherr, Joe Carmichael, Stephen Hoven, Carrie Tergin, Beverly Miller, Gregory Spears, Kendall Seal, Tyree Lewis, Gabrial Gore and Virginia Fry, as well as President Clifton Smart III, Internship Coordinator Kristi Perryman, Tamara Arthaud, the head of the counseling department, and Angela Anderson, a faculty member.
Cash, according to the lawsuit, “was targeted and punished for expressing his Christian worldview regarding a hypothetical situation concerning whether he would provide counseling services to a gay/homosexual couple.”
“Since he did not give the ‘correct’ answer required by his counseling instructors, he was considered unsuitable for counseling and terminated from the program,” the lawsuit alleges.
All counselors have personal opinions, and when a conflict arises with a potential patient, it’s common to refer the patient to another counselor.
However, even that option is being denied Cash, according to the lawsuit.
A university spokeswoman told WND, “We do not comment on pending litigation.”
Then she commented, “We do not discriminate based on religion or any other protected classes.”
The law firm explains Cash was dismissed from his Master of Science in counseling program after “expressing concern over counseling same-sex couples due to his religious views.”
“His suit claims that he is unable to be a counselor and suffers daily emotional grief and pain. He is also seeking MSU to reinstate him in his [program] with safeguards so that he can earn his degree.”
Cash was a student “in excellent standing and nearing the completing of his degree” when he was removed, the complaint explains.
“Traditionally, universities have been places for freedom of thought, expression, and religion,” said Tom Olp, executive director for the Thomas More Society. “Yet we see Missouri State University has betrayed long-held values of academic freedom by denying educational opportunity to Mr. Cash on the basis of his deeply held religious beliefs. We are working to correct the denial to freedom of expression and freedom of religion he experienced at MSU.”
Cash was fulfilling a requirement for 240 hours with clients, working with the school-approved Springfield Marriage and Family Institute, when “it became known to his academic adviser that Cash would not counsel a gay couple with regards to their relationship,” the legal team said.
“He expressed that he would be happy to counsel gay individuals on any other matter – for instance, depression or anxiety – and would be glad to refer them to a counselor better fit to advise on same-sex relationship matters. Suddenly, the school determined SMFI was no longer considered an appropriate location for a school internship due to ‘ethical concerns,'” the Thomas More Society said.
Further, school officials abruptly demanded he re-do some coursework he already had completed. They canceled the 51 clinical hours he had completed at the location approved by the school and demanded, essentially, that he change his beliefs.
The lawsuit explains Perryman “told plaintiff that he could not hold these views, which she deemed to be unethical, and which, she asserted, contradicted the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics.”
“Perryman … directed plaintiff not to return to his internship at SMFI, the internship that she had approved just three months before,” the lawsuit says.
She also said she would require the correct response from him to an article titled “Implications for Refusing to Counseling (sic) Homosexual Relationships” as a condition of his continuing.
The school officials then colluded to refuse him permission to continue his schooling, the lawsuit contends.
Even though he had a GPA of 3.81, was in good standing with the school and held a clean record, Cash “was called into a meeting with the department head and the dean of the college of education and was informed he was being removed.”
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, contends: “Plaintiff passed the National Counselor Exam, the NCE, and all he needed to graduate was to finish his internship hours, finish his seminar paper, and take comps. He was very close to realizing his dream to become a counsel, a dream that has now been dashed.”
Further, the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance “determined that although it was inconclusive that religious discrimination had occurred, that … Perryman’s personal feelings about this experience were the catalyst for plaintiff’s dismissal.”
Still the school refused to correct the situation, the lawsuit says.
The case alleges school officials violated his First Amendment right to freedom of expression then retaliated against him.
“Defendants … compelled plaintiff to advocate and speak in favor of ideas which are not his own, thereby depriving plaintiff of his clearly established rights to freedom of speech and expression secured by the First Amendment,” the lawyers outline.
As a result, the complaint contends, “irreparable harm” was done.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and the restoration of Cash’s standing in the counseling program so he can continue working toward a degree.