Published On: Wed, Jan 18th, 2017

Missouri State Univsersity settles lawsuit with Andrew Cash, graduate counseling degree candidate denied because of his faith

Attorneys with the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, filed a federal civil rights complaint against the Governors of Missouri State University on behalf of Andrew Cash. The matter has now been settled in favor of Cash.

Cash was a student at the university who was dismissed from his M.S. in Counseling program after expressing concern over counseling same-sex couples due to his religious convictions.

His suit claimed that he was unable to complete his counseling curriculum, and is now prevented from working as a counselor, causing him daily emotional suffering. He is seeking for MSU to reinstate him in his counseling program with safeguards put in place so that he can successfully earn his degree.

In reaction to the settlement, the Thomas More Society has issued the following statement:

photo Matt Pascucci

“We are honored to have represented Andrew Cash in his quest to serve others with professional counseling, while maintaining his religious convictions. His religious convictions are protected by the U.S. 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.”  Thomas Olp, Attorney, Thomas More Society

“Traditionally, universities have been places for free exchange of ideas and values, both religious and secular,” Olp said at the time.

“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.  An educator should not permit her own ideology and agenda to ruin the educational opportunities of her students.  We feel the responsibility, on Mr. Cash’s behalf, to try to correct this.”

As a part of the degree program, students are required to complete clinical internship hours.  Cash started his internship in January 2011 with the Springfield Marriage and Family Institute, which had been approved by MSU as an internship site.  At least one other student in the M.S. in Counseling program had previously completed an internship there.  The Institute is a Christian-based counseling agency, and MSU knew this when it approved Cash’s internship in January 2011.

Although Cash worked with the administration to find a different internship, the faculty advisor required him, as a condition of being re-accepted to a new internship, to prove to her that he “had learned something from the experience at the Springfield Marriage and Family Institute.”   Later, the same advisor wrote a letter to department officials claiming that it appeared to her, despite a total lack of evidence, that she suspected that Cash had not recanted from his earlier-stated religious views.  She then made a recommendation, which was accepted, to force Cash into “remediation.”  A year later, in November 2014, the University expelled Cash from the counseling program, and his appeals fell on deaf ears.  Cash was very close to graduating, but lost his ability to complete his degree by the expulsion.

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