Christian at Missouri State stands her ground
SPRINGFIELD – A Missouri State University graduate is suing the school’s Board of Governors, the president, and the faculty of the School of Social Work for violating the plaintiff’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because of her religious beliefs relating to homosexual adoption.
Emily Brooker, an undergraduate in MSU’s School of Social Work program during the 2002-2006 academic school years, refused to sign a letter advocating in favor of homosexual adoption to the State of Missouri Legislature. Brooker is a professing Christian who holds sincere beliefs about morality.
During the fall 2005 semester, Brooker enrolled in a required Social Work class where the defendant, Frank Kauffman, was the professor. In the course of the semester, Kauffman assigned the class to engage in a semester-long social work advocacy project. The class formed small groups and chose their own projects. Brooker’s group chose homelessness as their subject. Later in the semester, Kauffman brought in a speaker with the homosexual advocate group, PROMO. After listening to the speaker, Kauffman chose to throw out all existing advocacy projects and assigned the class to work together on a project in favor of homosexual foster homes and adoption.
According to the verified complaint filed with the Southern Division of the Western District of Missouri, United States District Court, Kauffman proceeded to inform the class that “the class would learn about homosexual foster homes and adoption issues, attend a town hall meeting discussing the issue, write a reaction paper, and then, as a class, write a letter advocating in favor of homosexual adoption to the State of Missouri Legislature.” In order to complete the project, each student must individually sign the letter.
Brooker complied with the project’s demands and completed the stated work, but felt that signing the letter went against her Christian beliefs. After a meeting with Professor Kaufman, Brooker was allowed to complete an alternate project.
On Dec 9, 2005, approximately one month after completing the project, Brooker received a phone call stating that a level-three grievance had been brought against her asserting that she had violated the School of Social Work’s Standards of Essential Functioning in Social Work Education (SEF). A level-three grievance is the highest violation that an individual can bring against the student.
Brooker was informed that she had violated three of the SEF’s standards: Diversity, Interpersonal Skills, and Professional Behavior. According the SEF’s individual policies, each student enrolled in the Social Work Program must possess these standards according to their school level in the program.
According to the standards, Diversity insists that “the social work student must appreciate the value of human diversity. In an appropriate manner, the student must work with all persons in need of assistance, regardless of the person’s economic or social status, race, color, gender, creed, sexual orientation, political orientation, disability, veteran’s status, age, marital status or parental status. Social work students must not impose their own personal, religious, sexual, or cultural values on their clients.”
Intrapersonal Skills concludes that the student “must demonstrate the interpersonal skills needed to relate effectively to individuals from all components of the program. These skills include compassion, altruism, integrity, and the demonstration of respect for and consideration of others.”
Brooker was also accused of not exhibiting Professional Behavior in the classroom. SEF defines this as “The social work student must behave professionally by knowing and practicing within the scope of social work, respecting others, being dependable (including being punctual), prioritizing responsibilities, and completing assignments on time.”
On Dec. 16, 2005, Brooker attended a hearing where specific issues were supposed to be discussed in relation to the accusations brought against her. The panel, consisting of the faculty of the School of Social Work, interrogated Brooker for two and a half hours relating to her “discriminatory conduct” on her refusal to sign the homosexual adoption advocacy letter.
During the hearing, the faculty members allegedly attacked Brooker’s Christian beliefs by asking questions such as “Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners?” and “Do you think I am a sinner?”
A formal complaint was filed by Brooker on Sept. 17, 2006. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) also filed a complaint on Oct. 30, 2006. The ADF is an organization whose purpose is to be “a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.” ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom aggressively defends religious freedom at America’s public universities.