Springfield, Mo., Apr 25, 2016 / 16:06 pm
A former counseling student says that he was pushed out of a university after saying that he would refer same-sex couples to another counselor, due to his Christian beliefs.
“Traditionally, universities have been places for free exchange of ideas and values, both religious and secular,” Thomas Olp, executive director and attorney for the Thomas More Society, said April 21.
“Unfortunately, Missouri State University departed from its mission by denying educational opportunity to Mr. Cash simply because he expressed, in an academic setting, sincerely-held religious beliefs which his advisor deemed hostile to her own and therefore unacceptable.”
Andrew Cash was dismissed from a master’s program in counseling at the university after his advisor claimed that it was unethical for him to decline to counsel same-sex couples and refer them to another counselor instead.
Cash is seeking reinstatement in the program in a lawsuit against the governors of Missouri State University. The Chicago-based Thomas More Society filed the lawsuit on Cash’s behalf.
The lawsuit charges that Cash was “penalized for expressing his religious views.” The suit claims that the counseling program treated him differently than other students “because he is a Christian and because of his Christian beliefs.”
Suzanne Shaw, a spokeswoman for the university, told the Springfield News Leader she could not comment on the specifics of pending litigation. She said the university “strictly prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or any other protected class.”
Cash was almost finished with his degree in the program at Missouri State University in January 2011 when he sought to fulfill the degree program’s internship requirements, the Thomas More Society said. He chose an internship at the Springfield Marriage and Family Institute. The university had approved the Christian-based counseling agency as an internship site.