A Christian counselling student has received $25,000 in compensation after he was dismissed from his university’s counselling program.
Andrew Cash, who had been studying at Missouri State University (MSU) between 2007 and 2014, was removed from his degree course after he said he would not counsel same-sex couples on their relationships.
The MSU Board of Governors agreed to pay Cash “the estimated tuition cost to obtain a master’s degree in counselling from Evangel University or another similar institution” in an out-of-court settlement.
Christian relationship counselling
As part of his course, Cash was required to give a class presentation.
He elected to invite W.K. Boyce, his internship supervisor at Springfield Marriage and Family Institute (SMFI), to speak to the class about Christian relationship counselling.
In the talk, Boyce was asked if he would counsel same-sex couples, and replied that he would not.
When asked, Cash also indicated that he would not counsel same-sex couples on relationship issues, but was happy to do so on any other issues.
Betrayal of freedom
He was told that this went against the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics, and he was not allowed to continue his internship at SMFI over ethical concerns.
Cash was also informed that the hours he had accumulated up to that point would not count towards his degree.
At the time of filing the complaint, his lawyer Thomas Olp said: “Traditionally, universities have been places for freedom of thought, expression and religion.
“Yet we see Missouri State University has betrayed long-held values of academic freedom by denying educational opportunity to Mr Cash on the basis of his deeply-held religious beliefs.”
Cash’s lawyers also said he had been “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.”
After the settlement, Olp said: “His religious convictions are protected by the US 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”, he added.