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Update on, “Is there freedom of Religion in America?”

An earlier post of mine “Is there freedom of Religion in America?” has received a reply from a student in the same program.

A comment from ConcernedGrad is an interesting read and brings up some new questions. She defends her professor Dr. Frank G. Kauffman and suggests that Emily Brooker should be advised if she can, “not take the heat, she should have got out of the kitchen!”

ConcernedGrad’s comment expands the debate by suggesting that those who pursue social work must have a firewall between their personal faith and their professional work in social work. Her comment is listed below. ConcernedGrad, if you follow up and read this I have a question for you, are you suggesting that those who pursue social work as a career should be secularist?

My original question is what would have happened if Emily Brooker was a Muslim. I would think that if a Muslim were told they should not be in social work because of their religion there would be a great outcry and civil litigation. Would you’re advice be the same if Emily Brooker were a Muslim?


You can find the legal complaint here. This looks to me to be a clear violation of Emily Brooker’s civil rights.

ConcernedGrad Says:

Link to this comment e
I am currently in the graduate Social Work program at Missouri State University, and also received my Bachelor degree from the school when it was still SMSU. I currently have Dr. Kauffman as a professor, and I can speak for his high level of professionalism and care towards each and every student he teaches. I can also assure you that the Social Work code of ethics addresses and welcomes diversity among all people.

As social workers, as well as students, we are strongly encouraged to be self-aware of all of our values and beliefs. We are also encouraged to personally live by those values that we hold dear. There is a difference between personally living by values, and what we do PROFESSIONALLY. As a social worker and for those working to become one (such as the case with Emily Brooker), we agree to do what is best for our clients, even if that means sometimes going against our own beliefs. There is always a way out; however, if someone does not feel they can help a client because it goes against their personal beliefs, they have every right and even an obligation to refer that client to someone else, so that the client can still be assisted in the most effective and most objective way possible.

When we are accepted into the program of Social Work, we are aware and even given the Social Work code of ethics. No one is forced to apply to a program in Social Work, and each person chooses to take that path, knowing full well what it means to be a Social Worker….which is often times not easy, because working with a client may conflict with our own personal beliefs, etc.

What is Emily Brooker going to do in the future as a Social Worker, if a gay or lesbian client comes to her for help because they want to adopt, and she decides to take on that client and help him or her, instead of referring the person to someone else? Is she going to let her values and belief system get in the way of doing what is best for her client? Is she going to fail at her duty as a Social Worker to provide her client with the right of self-determination, just because she does not agree with what the client wants or with the client’s lifestyle? God help the clients she has in the future, because it sounds like she will only help them, if they fit into the Christian ways she thinks they should!

Also, let’s not forget that all we hear in newspapers and on the internet, is not always accurate. I am not saying that there is false information, but let’s remember that there are always two sides to every story. People have been known to do things for money. Hello, what a concept? I’m not biased, please don’t think I am. Emily Brooker had every right to stand up for her beliefs, and decide that Social Work was not for her. It is; however, the obligation of each academic institutition, to ensure that graduating students are leaving with competence and integrity, as well as with an understanding that their duty to their profession, as professionals, is to uphold what it means to be a profressional, such as a Social Worker. I think that the school had every right to say to Emily Brooker, if you would like to be a Social Worker and get a degree from this institutition, you need to learn how to welcome what your role of a Social Worker needs to be. This often means working with and helping clients, even when you do not always agree with their choices and lifestyles.

She could have easily decided to leave the program. She chose to stay in a program on her own free will that has standards that she did not feel she could meet, which included completing the class assignment. Not to be rude, but Social Work is not an easy profession, for many reasons. And if she realized that she could “not take the heat, she should have got out of the kitchen!” Social Work is not for everyone, and maybe it is not for Emily Brooker. How many people should suffer and even PAY, because she chose the path of Social Work, and does not have the ability to work with and advocate for people of diversity? Should this school have to pay, and more importantly, should all of her future clients have to pay? I hope not…


ConcernedGrad…(proud graduate student of Missouri State University)

10 Responses to “Update on, “Is there freedom of Religion in America?””

  1. M1Thumb Says:

    What I continually find to be interesting (and loathesome) in this topic is the duplicity of the anti-Christians’ use/non-use of the First Amendment. The courts have extrapolated the meaning of “Congress shall make no law establishing” to such an extent that any voluntary Christian expression on the part of a public schoolteacher (or student for that matter) is practically grounds for a public hanging. At the same time, a professor on the government payroll is allowed to suppress the free exercise of his students’ religion.

    ConcernedGrad, you are quick to use the fire & kitchen argument, claiming that the calling of a Social Worker is so high as to require a detachment from any true religious convictions. You justify this view by the fact that the student can choose to not go into Social Work.

    My question to you is this: If the gov’t enforced a “leave your God at home” rule in relation to Social Workers, would you or would you not find that to be in violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment? Would a similar law be acceptable for lowly office workers such as myself? I mean, after all, I could certainly choose to do any number of jobs besides that of a Customer Service Representative. If I can’t stand the heat of being a CSR and having to leave my religion at home, I should get out of the fire, right?

    The support of any amount of religious persecution leads us in one inevitable direction. Unfortunately, our country is already well on its way down this path.

  2. David Says:

    I can’t speak directly to Social Work programs, but having graduated with a Ph. D. in Clinical Psychology from a prestigious university in the midwest, there is a a strong liberal and secular bias that runs through much of psychology . Dr. Helen, the “insta-wife,” speaks about this very issue from time to time. In my program, while we did have a couple of “religious” staff members, for the most part religion and spirituality was subtly if not overtly looked down upon as “backward” or “simple minded.” Anyone who spoke about God in classes or in relation to their own personal life was looked at as being a potential problem. The professors viewed themselves as a very “scientific” program, and in their minds religion was the antithesis of science, and had no place in their program.

    Now, as your poster from Missouri State pointed out, there is a difference between what one believes personally, and what can and should be integrated into a therapy environment. Now, this is where things get particularly difficult. Some will try to tell you that therapy should be value neutral, that everything is equally valid, and you should just help the client with what they “want.” The problem with that is, by nature, therapy, and psychology in particular, are biased and based in certain values. Therapy is a delicate balance between the therapist’s values, the values espoused by the “psychology establishment,” the client’s values, and what’s “best” for the situation. Everyone has biases. Knowing what they are, how to deal with them, and when and where to step aside is part of being a professional. Even judges recuse themselves when they know their bias will get in the way. So often, when someone is criticized for holding some value, and the comment is “How will they be an effective therapist while they are biased” they’re in reality saying “I find value X repugnant, so go away, but you better value Y, because that’s vital.” It is appropriate to have a discussion about these bias issues and how an individual will handle them. Learning to deal with them is again, part of being a professional. As long as potential clients are aware of these issues, and are able to decide for themselves if they wish to continue with that therapist, it’s really not a large deal. There are many therapists out there that specifically advertise themselves as religious therapists, or new-age therapists, or whatever.

    Much like the student who got in trouble, I’ve come up against “values” espoused by the establishment with which I disagree. That promise of “diversity” and “valuing the uniqueness of the individual” aren’t usually interpreted to value the religious or conservative (socially or politically) points of view. They mean “we value X, and you better also value X, and if you don’t, you’re not open minded” In the words of Inigo Montoya, “you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    There is quite the difference between writing a class project to promote a position which includes advocating to congress about that position, and what can and should be done in therapy. It is completely inappropriate in my opinion for an academic program, that claims to be about scientific discovery, rigorous research, and intellectual discuss, to force a student to advocate to Congress on behalf of some cause. Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to ask a student to work on a project that may advocate for a particular position with which they disagree as part of classwork alone. It is quite common to assign students to one side or the other of a particular issue and have them research and write about their assigned position. It fosters critical thinking, professional researching, and lively debate in a classroom. As long as it stays within the classroom, it is easily understood that a person may not actually believe the position they are asked to represent. How often have you seen people in undergraduate classes give the whole “pro versus con” of the death penalty, etc. As part of class. Asking someone to go the further step to actually advocate that position outside of the classroom is completely unprofessional and unethical on the professor’s part.

    I could go on and on about all of this, but the above stream of consciousness is all I have time for right now.

  3. M. Neal Says:

    Thanks, David.

  4. Terry Says:

    ConcernedGrad–your theories about Ms. Brooker’s future are all besides the point. Her professor requested that she write her legislator about homosexual adoption…but that she also espouse a certain viewpoint.

    Assigning topics to debate in class or writing a paper or essay from a position that you disagree with is understood in the context of learning to argue from a position.

    But that is not what the Professor did. He wanted his viewpoint to be on record as her viewpoint in the legislative record book. He wanted his view with her signature in order to impact politics.

    It’s lame…it was transparent, and #9 is correct in asking the question: would Ms. Brooker have received the same treatment had she been Muslim? Most likely, not.

  5. Nancy Says:

    You are all assuming that this complaint is legitimate. Any one can sue anybody for any reason in this country. Learning to lobby to your state representative is part of the class, and she was allowed to pick her own subject. You are assuming she was “forced” to sign the letter..when in fact, if you read the complaint…you will see that she is claiming that she was forced by the faculty to sign a contract stating she would uphold the NASW code of ethics, in spite of her religious beliefs.
    The faculty may well have had concerns that Ms. Brookers behavior on more than one occasion, brought into question whether she would still be able to advocate for a client who may be homosexual.
    The 30 page suit is online and I really encourage people to read it more closely.

  6. #9 Says:

    The complaint Nancy spoke of can be found here.

    Nancy, thanks for the info.

    For those in this field, is it normal in a class to be forced to sign a code of Ethics?

  7. #9 Says:

    Some disturbing items in the complaint:

    “social work is a liberal profession”

    Brooker appealed her grade and was denied by Kauffman but was granted a higher grade by Social Work Chairman a year later.

    Kauffman had already created a hostile environment with Brooker long before the code of ethics was brought up.

    Nancy, I don’t see your point. This is a serious civil rights violation.

  8. Mark Crouch Says:

    “What is Emily Brooker going to do in the future as a Social Worker, if a gay or lesbian client comes to her for help because they want to adopt, and she decides to take on that client and help him or her, instead of referring the person to someone else?”

    As a medical student, I also find myself encountering ethical problems in which the ‘laws’ of the society conflict with my own beliefs. Emily would probably simply refer this hypothetical client on. In an age when we are omitting parts of the Hippocratic oath because the ethics of it conflicts with our society, I don’t see why any social worker should feel like the contract of ethics that they must sign has any validity anyway. You are committing to those principles for what – a year or two – until some prominent Pyschologist says that there is something wrong with them? Sociology and Pyschology are softer sciences than Physics and Biology – but none of them have an exclusive monopoly on discussing the ethical ramifications of discovery. Ethical and Moral principles are not discovered in a laboratory side-by-side with the genome. For Social Workers to suggest that because of their ‘priveleged’ position they are somehow more entitled to tell someone who they ought to help and what they ought to believe reflects downright arrogance.

  9. Philip Says:

    I am a doctoral student in social work and am studying the relationship between personal values and professional values in my dissertation. I whole-heartedly believe (and support)that Ms. Brooker has the right to hold and express any personal belief she might have. However, she does not have a constitutionally granted right to be a social worker. While I do not agree with the way the school handled this issue (at least as far as I know the “facts”), I certainly believe they have a requirement to the social work profession to impose professionally sanctioned value standards.

    The right to identify as a social worker is generally governed by state laws and requires meeting specific criteria. Among other things, this criteria does include upholding an established ethical code. While NASW is not the only professional social work organization, it is the largest, and its code of ethics is widely accepted as the professional standard.

    If Ms. Brooker, or any student for that matter, does not agree with the ethical requirements of the profession, then she is free to pursue a career in another field. THe NASW Code of Ethics contains explicit language regarding the role of social workers in working to overcome oppression and discrimination against many groups including those with non-heterosexual orientations. There are prohibitions in the Old Testament against inter-racial relationships, and yet I can hardly imagine anyone supporting a student advocating against inter-racial marriage or adoption.

    From a personal standpoint, I stand firm against hypocritical claims that the be “liberal” means to be “anti-religion,” or that to support GLBTQ equality means a rejection of Christianity. As a self-identified Christian and gay man, I know firsthand that the two things are not mutually exclusive. Many of us are called to the social sciences out of deep desires to help others, and for me and many of my colleagues, these desires are based in strong spiritual and religious beliefs.

    I do not believe Ms. Brooker has been “harmed” by the social work profession. If anything, I believe she represents an ongoing fundamentalist attack on moderate and progressive Christians. If she wishes to lay claim to the professional status of “social worker”, then she must do so in accordance with professional guidelines. If she can’t do that, she is certainly free to pursue career options in other areas.

  10. ConcernedGrad Says:

    First of all, I would like to state that I think ANYONE should be allowed to be a Social Worker, no matter what ethnicity, religion, and so on. While my own personal beliefs is not the issue, I also do not want people thinking that I am “anti-Christian” either. My first comment was not meant to be offensive or directed to any one person or group of people. I think that it is wonderful if Social Workers have strong religious and spiritual guidance, that this makes for more caring and grounded professionals, and that it is great if people can incorporate their beliefs into practice as much as possible. Therefore, to answer one of the questions, I do not believe that Social Work should be a secularist profession. As long as Social Workers can still uphold the Social Work code of ethics, and do what is best for their clients, that is all that matters to me. I am comfortable stating that others feel this way too, for professionals that I know personally. I know and have worked with a lot of professionals, of various ethnic and religious backgrounds, and they are no different in their ability to practice the profession effectively. Most importantly, I want to point out that the profession of Social Work does not turn anyone away from joining the aim to help those in need, no matter what their own backgrounds are. This is in response to the comment regarding Muslims. I am afraid that in society today, we are too quick to relate things as issues of diversity. Social Work is a wonderful profession, and anybody that has a desire to help people, is welcomed with open arms.

    That said, I also want to point out that if the only issue was that Emily Brooker did not want to do a class assignment, I think that an alternative assignment could have been and I believe was in fact arranged. In the complaint made by Emily Brooker, it states that Professor Kauffman threw out the assignment, after Emily and others expressed they did not want to do it. The school does and I feel should encourage us as students to challenge our own beliefs. Not to change them, but to become more self-aware, so that we can be the best Social Workers possible in the future. I made my first comment, because I read in the complaint that Emily Brooker, when asked to write a paper stating how she would help people of diversity even if it sometimes meant going against her beliefs, and when asked if she would sign an agreement/contract stating that she would uphold the Social Work Code of Ethics, she did so just in order to graduate but admitted that she did not feel comfortable doing so.

    If Emily Brooker and others have no problems helping clients of diversity in the “real world”, or at least referring them on to other professionals who can assist them, then I think that is fabulous and should be mentioned. In my first message; however, I was responding to hypothetical situations that if she and/or others are not able to uphold clients’ rights to self-determination because it conflicts with their own personal belief systems, that is when I feel problems exist. As with any profession, Social Work has the right to have a Code of Ethics that professionals agree to follow. That is one of the characteristics that makes Social Work in fact a profession, and what helps Social Work to be recongnized by the academic and professional world as in fact a profession. My earlier posting explained that it is up to every academic institution to ensure that graduates are competent when leaving with their degree. If we as a Social Work profession, or any other professions for that matter, does not value any standards, how can professions maintain a standard that is acceptable and universal? Other professions such as Psychology also have a Code of Ethics that they exist by and follow, but for some reason, the Social Work’s Code of Ethics and the standard that professionals are asked to follow, is under attack because of this case development.

    In closing, while I admit that I still do not know all of the details of the case, and do not think that any of us ever will, I think that if the school had concerns about Emily’s ability to practice effectively in the “real world”, and not issues against Emily’s personal beliefs and choice to not do an assignment, they had every right to discuss those concerns with Emily. I am sure that the school has done this in the past as well, and is not directed towards any one student. This goes back to what I was stating earlier, that it is the responsibility of every university to ensure that they are sending compentent and ethical people into professions, and in the case of this particular discussion, into the Social Work profession.

    Thanks and best regards,


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