SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (CN) – Missouri State University will pay $25,000 to a former student who claimed he was kicked out of its counseling program for refusing to counsel gay couples.
The MSU Board of Governors agreed to pay Andrew Cash “the estimated tuition cost for Cash to obtain a master’s degree in counseling from Evangel University or another similar institution,” according to the settlement. The Springfield News-Leader obtained the December settlement through an open records request.
Cash was represented by Thomas Olp of the Thomas More Society, which represents people on religious freedom issues.
“We are honored to have represented Andrew Cash in his quest to serve others with professional counseling, while maintaining his religious convictions,” Olp said in an email to Courthouse News. “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.”
Cash sued MSU in April 2016 in Federal Court. He claimed that Kristi Perryman, former internship coordinator for the MSU Counseling Department, approved his internship at the Springfield Marriage and Family Institute (SMFI) in the fall of 2010 and that at least one student had successfully completed an internship at SMFI.
Each student is required to make a class presentation. Cash proposed to his instructor, nonparty Kara Davis, that he do his presentation on Christian counseling, and he did so on April 11, 2011.
During the presentation, a student asked SMFI Executive Director W.K. Boyce whether he would counsel gay couples. Boyce responded that he would counsel them on an individual basis, but not as a couple due to his religious beliefs. Boyce, who is not a party to the lawsuit, said he would refer gay couples to fellow counselors who do not share his religious beliefs.
A week later, Cash says, Perryman informed him that he was not allowed to continue interning at SMFI and that the organization would be removed from MSU’s approved site list until certain “ethical” concerns were addressed.
Cash says Perryman questioned him closely on whether he would counsel gay couples. Cash said he would counsel them individually but not as a couple due to his religious beliefs. Cash said he would refer them to other counselors who do not hold his beliefs.
According to the lawsuit, Perryman told Cash he could not continue his internship and that his hours at SMFI wouldn’t count. Cash was eventually dismissed from MSU with a 3.81 grade point average.
Cash claimed he was “targeted and punished for expressing his Christian worldview.”
MSU spokeswoman Suzanne Shaw told the News-Leader that the settlement money will come from the State of Missouri legal defense fund.
Among conditions of the settlement, Cash cannot seek admission or employment with MSU, and the university does not admit any liability.