Victory for our First Amendment freedoms
A graduate student in psychology was about four weeks away from completing a year-long internship necessary for obtaining a master’s degree, when a Chestnut Hill College Dean wrote the student an alarming email. The Dean told the student to stop the internship, that a remediation plan would be implemented, and that the entire internship, including almost 500 hours of internship time, would be wiped out. What could have caused the college to take such drastic measures against this student with a 3.98 GPA?
The college became aware the student’s internship bio referenced counseling people who left a homosexual lifestyle and desired help coping with unwanted same-sex attraction. Chestnut Hill learned that during the internship, a client had sought help from this student with abstaining from activities the client understood inconsistent with his Christian faith: same-sex pornography use.
Now, if a Catholic priest sought help living chaste or an unmarried person sought help in abstaining from sexual activity prior to marriage based on their religious beliefs, one can hardly imagine Chestnut Hill would have acted similarly. But here, Chestnut Hill punished this student because the sexual behavior the client sought help in abstaining from was sexual activity with people of the same-sex.
“Here, the college demonstrated a hostility to any approach to same-sex attraction that is not explicitly gay-affirming,” Randall Wenger, Chief Counsel of the Independence Law Center, stated. “The College’s actions demonstrated a de-facto policy of discrimination against religious clients and the counselors willing to support those client’s right to self-determination to abstain from acting on same-sex attractions that conflicts with the client’s religious beliefs.”
“Clients who seek help in abstaining from acting on sexual desires the client believes are immoral should have the right to obtain help from a willing counselor, regardless of whether the desire they seek to abstain from stems from homosexual or heterosexual feelings,” Jeremy Samek, Senior Counsel at the Independence Law Center, said.
After the Independence Law Center was enlisted to help, the school re-instituted the credits and permitted him to graduate with the diploma the student had rightfully earned.
The Independence Law Center is the pro-bono legal ministry of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. For more information on the Independence Law Center or to support our work, please call 717-657-4990 or visit independencelawcenter.org.