(CNSNews.com) - A Christian social work student who took Missouri State University to court after a liberal professor targeted her for refusing to lobby for homosexual adoption said Thursday she and the teacher had clashed over her beliefs from day one.
Emily Brooker was vindicated when the university agreed to an out-of-court settlement, and the professor was disciplined.
In her suit, Brooker, who has since graduated, accused the university of violating her First Amendment right to free speech by exercising her Christian convictions.
Brooker brought the case after the professor, Dr. Frank G. Kauffman, filed a "level three" grievance against her - the most serious in the school's disciplinary system - after they clashed over an advocacy assignment.
She told Cybercast News Service that the class was required to write a letter to their senator advocating for homosexual adoption and foster care. Brooker said she opposes homosexual adoption because of her beliefs as a Methodist.
Brooker said she and another student objected.
"We were willing to do all of the research and the other parts of the assignment, even writing a letter - we just didn't want to sign it and send it to our senator. We did not feel that advocating for this is in our personal beliefs," she said.
The other student, who was not held in violation or involved in the lawsuit, has not been named.
Brooker described her first class with Kauffman.
"The very first class I had with him, he introduced himself as Dr. Kauffman and [said] that he was a liberal professor - but to feel free to share any other opinions you might have," she recalled.
"There were several times during that first class that we disagreed on a few political issues, and he made it known to me that my opinions were not acceptable in the class."
After Kauffman filed the grievance, Brooker faced a lengthy session of questioning by an ethics committee, during which she was asked questions like: "Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners?" and "Do you think I'm a sinner?"
She was accused of violating the school's Standards of Essential Functioning in Social Work Education - a black mark on her record that she knew would affect her future career as a social worker.
Brooker sought help from the Alliance Defense Fund. The group, which defends religious liberty, agreed to represent her. She filed the lawsuit on Oct. 30, but the university last week signed an out-of-court agreement with her legal representatives.
The university said in a statement it had agreed to clear Brooker's record, pay her $9,000, and cover the costs of a two-year Masters degree course, plus living expenses, at any state university in Missouri.
It said Kauffman had voluntarily stepped down from his administrative duties as director of the Master of Social Work program. He would also not be teaching for the remainder of the semester.
"The matter's behind us, it's been resolved in a collegial fashion, and we wish Emily nothing but the best," John Black, general counsel at Missouri State University, said Friday.
"Nobody here has anything but the best hopes for Emily ... and are confident she will do very well."
Black said that the university had "good grievance procedures."
"This was an event that when the university investigated it, we didn't confirm everything that was alleged, but we were concerned enough that we thought action needed to be taken and taken quickly."
'Silencing the opposition'
Erik Stanley, chief counsel for the religious freedom organization Liberty Counsel, told Cybercast News Service it was "appalling" that Brooker had been required to sign a document that violated her religious beliefs.
"I don't think anyone should be required to do that, regardless of social workers' ethics. Those types of issues like homosexuality or abortion - things that are very divisive and that people hold very strong religious views on - should not be mandated by the government in order to engage in these kinds of professions, like social work," Stanley said.
"The end result of the homosexual movement is not same-sex marriage," he added. "It is silencing the opposition. The end goal of the same-sex movement cannot tolerate anybody that has an opposing view point. These kinds of cases are indicative of that."
"I only wish other administrations would respond as quickly to violations of students' rights," ADF senior legal counsel David French said.
"Being a Christian shouldn't make you a second-class citizen on a college campus," said French in a statement.
"Instead of being a marketplace of ideas, some professors try to silence or even punish students whose beliefs do not conform to their personal worldview. To its credit, the university launched an investigation immediately after Emily's case was filed and has taken appropriate action against the professor and to repair Emily's reputation and record.
Brooker said people had asked her if she would do it again.
"I would definitely do this again. It was very important to me to let my voice be heard. I was very afraid for other students that didn't want to stand up, didn't want to say anything or question the authority that the professors have in the classroom," she said.
Brooker had no ill-feeling towards Kauffman.
"He is very knowledgeable in what he does. He knows the information, and he is a very good teacher in that aspect," she said.
"I was never setting out to get him fired - that was never my goal. I just wanted him, the department and the university to realize that the authority that professors perceive to have in the classroom has gone beyond what our policies allow them," Brooker added.
Kauffman did not respond to phone and email requests to comment for this article.
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