Student can ‘move on with his life to pursue a degree at a university that respects his rights of conscience,’ attorney says
A lawsuit against Missouri State University that alleged the school kicked a Christian student out of its master’s degree program for saying he would not counsel gay couples because of his religious beliefs has been settled, with the complainant reportedly earning a sizable monetary settlement in his favor.
Campus officials agreed to pay student complainant Andrew Cash $25,000 to settle the suit, according to the News-Leader, which obtained the information through an open records request.
“Among the conditions of the settlement, Cash cannot seek admission or employment with MSU, and the university does not admit any liability,” the Leader reports, adding the settlement represents “the estimated tuition cost for Cash to obtain a master’s degree in counseling from Evangel University or another similar institution.”
According to the original lawsuit, Cash’s approach to counseling is “centered on his core beliefs, values and Christian worldview and these would not be congruent with the likely values and needs of a gay couple who, for these reasons, would be best served by a counselor sharing their core value system and core beliefs.”
Cash had said he would, however, counsel homosexuals individually for things like anxiety and depression.
But that was not good enough for Missouri State, according to the lawsuit, which says school officials claimed his stance contradicted the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics as discriminatory. Cash was eventually booted from the master’s degree program despite a solid grade-point average and a willingness to try and work with the university’s administrators.
“[Cash’s] experience at MSU has been devastating, crushing, and tormenting, culminating in his termination from the program — all because he interned with a Christian organization and expressed his religious beliefs on a hypothetical question about counseling a gay couple on relationship issues,” the lawsuit had stated. “[He] 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.”
In an email last week to The College Fix, attorney Thomas Olp of the Thomas More Society, which filed the litigation on Cash’s behalf, stated “we are honored to have represented Andrew Cash in his quest to serve others with professional counseling while maintaining his religious convictions.”
At one point the lawsuit was billed as a possible litmus test on whether it was constitutional to refuse to counsel homosexuals. David Kaplan, the chief professional officer of the American Counseling Association, had told the News-Leader in April 2016 he hoped a ruling against Cash would set a strong precedent to uphold the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics.
As a result of the settlement in Cash’s favor, Olp states Cash’s “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 conscience.”
A spokesman for the Thomas More Society, which filed the litigation on Cash’s behalf, said the group could not comment further, but does not dispute the report in the News-Leader regarding the settlement.