First Amendment Cited in La Sierra University Lawsuit

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19 Sep 2011 – The legal wrangling in a case involving the resignations of three La Sierra University employees has veered into questions of religious freedom ...



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LA SIERRA: First Amendment cited in university lawsuit




Published: 19 September 2011 10:08 PM
AText Size The legal wrangling in a case involving the resignations of three La
Sierra University employees has veered into questions of religious freedom and
the university's accreditation.

The three sued the university in July. They contend Ricardo Graham, the chairman of the La Sierra board and a top Seventh-day Adventist Church official, illegally coerced them into resigning after hearing a recording of the three criticizing Graham and two top Adventist education officials. Two remain at the university as professors, but not in their previous administrative posts.


LA SIERRA: Four resign after recording emerges (June 2011)

Former La Sierra University administrators, professor file suit (July 2011)

Riverside: Accrediting commission warns La Sierra University (Aug. 2011)

The three acknowledge in their suit they were "very critical" of the officials
after an April meeting that discussed concerns about the Adventist-affiliated
university's adherence to church teaching. An Adventist church body has
criticized La Sierra for not doing enough to present church teaching on Biblical
creationism in its science classes.

Graham, the Pacific Union Adventist conference Graham heads, the Adventist
church's education division and the two education officials also are named in
the suit.

In their recently filed response to the suit, La Sierra and the Adventist
conference and division say that their actions are protected by the First

La Sierra is a religious institution and has the right to require high-ranking
employees to follow the direction of Adventist organizations' leaders, said
Michael Connally, an attorney for La Sierra and the Adventist conference and
division. The response states that by being "very critical" of the three church
officials, the plaintiffs criticized the religious mission of the university and

"The plaintiffs' complaint is asking the court to decide how La Sierra is
allowed to relate to Seventh-day Adventist Church organizations, and the First
Amendment doesn't allow the courts to do that," Connally said.

Richard McCune, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the First Amendment
argument is "nonsense." He said his clients are challenging the lack of due
process and the coercive nature of the resignations, not church doctrine.

McCune said his clients are worried the legal response could endanger La
Sierra's accreditation. In July, the regional association that accredits
universities sent a letter to La Sierra expressing concern about the "forced
resignations" because they appeared to be orchestrated by officials acting on
behalf of the church, not the university. The letter said La Sierra risks
sanction and eventual de-accreditation unless changes are made to its structure.

--- In, "UliciaU" <mydedication2000@...

 Here are some of the interesting comments --

 • La Sierra University is not a separate institution, and is, instead, part of
a single unified church entity.
 • La Sierra University is not a true University, but rather a "church operated
college (emphasis added)"
 •That the spiritual leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church know what is
best for this Seventh-day Adventist university, implying that Church leaders
should be making academic and curriculum decisions.
 • That this controversy is a theological one.

 According to ATNews:
 This position is in direct conflict with the previous express statement of La
Sierra University administration to the faculty, WASC, and the community,
claiming that the forced resignations had nothing to do with the "origins

 Another link you may like to look through is