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Supreme Court of the United States

Brooker v. The Governors of Missouri State University

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

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.

Summary

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.

Learn More
Resources

Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
{"docs": [{"Court": "TrialCourt", "Title": "Complaint", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/brooker-v.-the-governors-of-missouri-state-university/brooker-v-franks---complaint.pdf", "Date": "10/26/2017 11:28:19 PM"}]}
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