Former Missouri State University student Andrew Cash is suing the college for kicking him out based on his opposition to same-sex relationships.
Cash, who began his master’s in counseling in 2007, was expelled from the program in 2014 for expressing his views on counseling homosexual couples on relationship issues.
“He never said he wouldn’t counsel a gay person,” Jason Craddock, a lawyer with the Thomas More Society, which filed the suit earlier this week, told me.
Cash told administrators he would counsel homosexuals suffering from depression and anxiety, but not couples and not regarding their homosexual relationships. Instead, he would refer them to another counselor who did not share his views.
“That still wasn’t good enough for the university,” Craddock said.
Cash’s clash with the university began in the spring of 2011, after he started an internship with Springfield Marriage and Family Institute (SMFI). For a counseling degree, the university requires 600 hours of clinical internship, with 240 hours face-to-face with clients.
At least one other student had completed an internship through the Christian counseling agency, and the university’s internship coordinator, Kristi Perryman, approved Cash’s internship with the group in the fall of 2010.
As part of the program, students were required to arrange a class presentation on a counseling topic. Cash chose Christian counseling, and invited members of SMFI to speak. During the presentation on April 11, 2011, a fellow student asked if SMFI counseled gay couples.
W.K. Boyce, SMFI’s executive director, said he would counsel gay people individually but not as couples. His Christian beliefs compelled him to refer homosexual couples to someone else, he said.
The next Monday in class, Boyce’s response became a hot topic of discussion. That night, Cash got an email from Perryman “directing him to meet with her ‘in person as soon as possible’ regarding his internship at SMFI,” the lawsuit states.
Perryman interrogated Cash about his religious beliefs on homosexuality and told him he had violated the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics, which states counselors must “refrain from referring prospective and current clients based solely on the counselor’s personally held values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.”
She also told him he would not be allowed to continue his internship at SMFI, and the agency was then removed from the university’s approved internship list.
Cash had to write a paper on working with gay couples and seek a new internship. He also had to show that he “had learned from this experience,” an email from Perryman said.
In 2012, Cash submitted an application for a new internship, but dared to try to count the 51 hours of clinical time he’d already spent at SMFI. He also claimed “there was nothing wrong” with his internship at SMFI, according to the lawsuit.
Perryman met with fellow department heads, who agreed Cash must leave the program or go through a “remediation plan.” The plan included 10 counseling sessions and re-taking classes he had already passed with “A’s.”
Cash appealed the decision to another professor, to a committee, to the Dean of the College of Education, and to the Provost, but was denied each time.
“The more he stood his ground, the more they started saying they had concerns about him ethically,” Craddock said.
In November 2014, Cash had a 3.81 GPA, a clean record, and only a few milestones to go before graduation when school officials expelled him from the counseling program.
It’s not the first time a counseling student has faced challenges for holding Christian views. In 2010, Jennifer Keeton was kicked out of her master’s in counseling program at Georgia’s Augusta State University for holding that homosexuality is a sinful life choice, not a biological imperative. Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom sued the school on Keeton’s behalf but ultimately lost the case.
Julea Ward, initially expelled from her counseling program at Eastern Michigan University for trying to refer a client seeking advice on a homosexual relationship, had more success in the courts. The school eventually settled with Ward in 2012, paying her $75,000.
“Our hope is to teach college campuses or workplaces that faith is not something that has to be thrown out or checked at the door just for somebody to practice their trade or to go to school to learn their trade,” Craddock said. “I think Christians have to go on the offensive, or it’s going to be a situation like Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, where you aren’t safe to have a guest in your home, with the demands of the gay mob. I’m hoping this case goes far enough, and the others as well, that this can be turned around, that faith will be protected and not smothered by the demands of the gay lobby.”
— by Samantha Gobba