College was a rude awakening for Emily Brooker. Her freshman year, she received a class assignment to perform homosexual behavior in public, such as holding hands or kissing, and then write a paper about the experience. Emily didn’t do the assignment, but she wrote the paper as if she had. She received an “A”, but vowed never to compromise her faith again.
Three years later, as a senior, Emily again faced a difficult choice. One of her professors announced a class project of advocating foster and adoption rights for homosexuals, culminating with signing and sending a letter to the state legislature. Emily fulfilled all the requirements of the class, but drew the line on signing the letter.
She tried to explain to her professor that she couldn’t advocate for something that went against her faith, but the professor became irate. Emily planned to discuss the issue with him again with the social work department head, but before she had the chance, the department head called. Her professor had filed a grievance against her. The hearing would include not just the head and the professor, but seven faculty members. Emily wasn’t allowed to bring a lawyer or record the proceedings, and her parents had to wait outside the door for two and a half hours.
Alone, Emily faced the faculty as they interrogated her about her Christian faith. When she refused to back down, they insisted that she sign a contract vowing to “close the gap” between her faith and the social work program, or else not graduate.
Once she had her diploma in hand, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom Emily took legal action against the school for violating her freedom of religion and expression. Ten days later, the president of the university publicly apologized to Emily, offered to pay for her to attend graduate school, and began an investigation of the social work department. The four tenured professors were moved to other departments, and four other faculty members were dismissed.
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Brooker v. The Governors of Missouri State University
What's at stake
- Religious students’ right to not speak in violation of their conscience.
- The right of students to opt-out of assignments that force them to say something publicly that violates their faith.
Emily Brooker was a quiet student working on her master’s degree in social work at Missouri State University. But when one of her professors told the class that they had to sign a letter to the Missouri legislature advocating in favor of same-sex adoption, Emily experienced the intolerance of the left on public university campuses today.
During her time at Missouri State, Emily had already help found a Christian sorority, and was volunteering at a local Christian outreach in the form of a coffee shop. She was looking for more ways to put her Christian faith into practice, and she found it—in class.
Emily asked for an alternate assignment, and at first her professor relented. But a few days later, Emily’s professor charged her with a level three grievance – the highest form of punishment in the School of Social Work at Missouri State.
Where many students would have simply signed the letter and moved onto other homework, Emily knew doing so would conflict with everything she believed. She would have betrayed herself and her faith.
Emily says, “It wasn’t just ‘Look at this population and write about it’ … it was, ‘You are going to put your name on something.’ It was like endorsing it, and I said, ‘No, I can’t do this. I do not want my name on any document that says I am going to support the homosexual agenda.’”
Missouri State University dragged Emily alone before a faculty panel, interrogated her about her religious beliefs, and then forced her to sign a contract saying she would not let her religious views get in the way of her school work, or she would be expelled from school. Emily was asked to abandon her faith as a condition of getting a social work degree at Missouri State University. Emily turned to a local attorney, who happened to also be an Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney.
Alliance Defending Freedom sprang into action for Emily, filed a lawsuit on her behalf, and in less than a week, Missouri State University settled the case in Emily’s favor. As a result of the lawsuit, the university hired outside investigators to examine the School of Social Work. The investigators found that the school was a toxic environment where students were fearful of questioning their professors and expressing their ideas. The investigators recommended that the school be closed and reopened with new faculty, and the professor who had charged Emily with a grievance was put on leave.
Alliance Defending Freedom fought for Emily, and her right to be free from saying things that violated her faith. Alliance Defending Freedom continues to fight for the rights of many college students like Emily to freely express their faith on campus.
Our role in this case
Alliance Defending Freedom represented Emily in a lawsuit against Missouri State University, and defended her right to speak – or not -- freely.
MSU student Emily Brooker faced an “ethics” committee after school officials informed her that she stood accused of a Level 3 grievance for violation of the School of Social Work’s “Standards of Essential Functioning in Social Work Education.” The Level 3 grievance is the highest level of grievance that an individual can bring against a student. University officials told Brooker she had violated three of the “Standards of Essential Functioning”: Diversity, Interpersonal Skills, and Professional Behavior.
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||Sep 17 2006