Missouri State University officials are paying a former student some $25,000 to finish his counseling degree elsewhere after they were sued for bashing and disqualifying his work in a counseling center because it is Christian.
Andrew Cash, in the latter part of a counseling program, was working on a requirement for 240 hours with clients at the school-approved Springfield Marriage and Family Institute.
However, things unraveled when he had one of his mentors come speak at the school and officials discovered that the Christian organization doesn’t counsel same-sex duos.
School officials immediately canceled Cash’s credits for his work, ordered him into a meeting and said he would have to counsel homosexuals as the school required or be ejected, even though he was nearing completion of his degree and was an excellent student.
“We are honored to have represented Andrew Cash in his quest to serve others with professional counseling, while maintaining his religious convictions,” said Thomas Olp of the Thomas More Society.
“His religious convictions are protected by the U.S. Constitution and should have been respected in an academic environment. The good news is that we helped Andrew Cash move on with his life to pursue a degree at a university that respects his rights of conscious.”
The News-Leader reported the school didn’t admit it did anything wrong but agreed to pay the $25,000 after kicking Cash out of the counseling program.
The settlement amount is the estimated tuition for Cash to finish his master’s from Evangel University or another similar institution.
Suzanne Shaw, a spokeswoman for the school, said the money is coming from the state of Missouri.
School officials had told Cash he was not allowed to continue his work with the counseling center, and they then placed him on a “remediation” plan before he eventually was removed from the program.
The settlement is comparable to the roughly $27,000 the university paid to another student, Emily Brooker, when she sued the university in 2006.
Brooker, a student in the School of Social Work, accused the school and a faculty member of violating her First Amendment rights when she refused to sign a letter supporting same-sex adoption.
In 2016, when the Cash case was filed, WND reported the defendants of the case brought by the Thomas More Society were 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 alleged.
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 was denied Cash, according to the lawsuit.
“Traditionally, universities have been places for freedom of thought, expression and religion,” Olp, executive director for the Thomas More Society, said at the time. “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.”