Missouri State University student, Andrew Cash, filed a lawsuit Tuesday after he dismissed from the master’s counseling program at MSU in 2014. Cash refused to counsel gay couples, based on his religious beliefs.
Cash was released from his master’s program while he was doing an internship at the Springfield Marriage and Family Institute. W.K. Boyce, the supervisor of the program, gave a class presentation, at Cash’s request, on Christian relationship counseling. That’s when the trouble for Cash began.
The following week, MSU internship coordinator Kristi Perryman, had a meeting with with Cash to discuss his refusing to counsel gay couples. Perryman informed Cash, that by refusing, he violated American Counseling Association’s code of ethics. Perryman told Cash he could not continue his internship at the Christian-based organization.
Cash claims in the lawsuit, he was being targeted for expressing his Christian worldview. This case has some very interesting components.
First, MSU allowed a student to participate in an internship program, without checking to make sure the program met the standards of the ACA. Cash also admitted to refusing to counsel gay couples, but he never denied counseling services to any gay couples. He sought out and enrolled in a program where he could reasonably avoid gay couples and maintain his religious beliefs. Finally, while Cash’s preferences are clearly discriminatory, should the school have allowed him to finish the program to accommodate his religious beliefs?
To clear up any confusion, the first question that must be answered is,”Is a counselor considered a physician or one who provides physician services? Yes, according to the United States Department of Labor website. The definition reads,
“By statute, the term “physician” includes surgeons, podiatrists, dentists, clinical psychologists, optometrists, osteopathic practitioners, and chiropractors within the scope of their practice as defined by state law.”
Psychologists are specifically defined as having three qualities: being licensed or certified, possessing a doctoral degree, and having two years of supervised experience.
Jeesica Dweck’s article on Slate, First, Do No Harm to Your Political Party, reported how Florida doctor Jack Cassell discriminated against potential patients. Cassell taped a sign to his door, that was directed toward President Obama supporters, to “seek urologic care elsewhere.”
That sign was a violation of the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 9.012, which will certainly be considered in the Cash lawsuit. The opinion goes as follows:
“Under no circumstances should physicians allow their differences with patients or their families about political matters to interfere with the delivery of high-quality professional care.”
It’s important to remember that the AMA is an association, not a legal institution, which Cassell was not a member. Cash is not currently known to be a member of the ACA, and that itself is a club, not a legal institution either. Section C.5 of its code of conduct title non-discrimination states:
“Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination against prospective or current clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/ partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law.”
The code is not required by law, and while Cash does run a serious risk of losing his license, the scenario does seem unlikely. Cash was volunteering at a church that promotes it’s Christian values. Gay couples would be unlikely to even approach the church for marriage services.
A big unanswered question is, even though Cash intended on practicing discriminatory services, did the school lawfully remove him from the program based on a club’s values? Also, if a person chooses to discriminate and can find work where their religious obligations can be met, should the state be actively try to change that person’s value?
The public can still choose not to use the services with the power of the dollar. If the customer has the right to choose who they buy from, are they also allowed to dictate to private businesses what services they can provide?
Suzanne Shaw a spokesman for MSU, said the university prohibits discrimination. Cash has hired Thomas Olp of the Thomas More Society, which represents clients on pro-life and religious freedom issues.