A college student at the University of Wisconsin claims that a professor threatened her with a failing grade unless she removes references to Christianity and the Bible from her group’s project.
Rachel Langeberg alleged that anthropology and sociology professor Dr. Anette Kuhlmann unconstitutionally censored her PowerPoint presentation by disallowing her to include themes of faith and a Bible verse.
According to a letter sent by the Liberty Counsel, who is representing Langeberg, the sociology class’s assignment was to highlight the causes of arson. Langeberg reportedly included sociological causes as well as biblical explanations such as the internal “bent” to do wrong in every human’s heart, called “sin nature.”
Kuhlmann allegedly said that Langeberg would not be able to make the presentation about arson and its causes in the crime and criminal justice class unless the Christian references were removed.
“You will also fail your presentation if your [sic] discuss religion in connection with it,” Kuhlmann allegedly said.
Langeberg decided to back down out of concern that her classmate’s grades would be negatively impacted. She says she met with the professor and dean to discuss the issue but they did not reach a resolution.
She then contacted the Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal firm that provides free assistance in defense of “Christian religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family,” according to Wikipedia.
Richard Mast, an attorney with the firm, said in a statement that the professor’s actions “crossed the line from scholarship to censorship.” He believes that the case is a clear-cut free speech issue.
“Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they sign up for classes at the University of Wisconsin,” Mast said. “It is blatantly unconstitutional to restrict student religious speech or threaten a failing grade for religious content, where the speech or content is otherwise academically appropriate for the assignment.”
Kuhlman likely disagrees. Liberty Counsel’s letter quoted her as saying in her review of the project “Starting with slide #9 you use religion and the bible [sic] as a source. While I can personally appreciate and respect your religious life we are living in a society that separates church and state; the University of Wisconsin is a secular institution. Religious contemplations and the bible belong to a different realm and not academic sources. So your argumentation along Christian lines, including the slides you designed in relation to it, are inappropriate for this presentation.”
Reportedly, she later justified her argument that the biblical inclusions were not permissible because the Bible is not peer reviewed. The letter from the Liberty Counsel, however, says that the syllabus never outlined that sources must be peer reviewed, The Blaze reports.
The Liberty Counsel is demanding Kuhlman write Langeberg and her group members an email apology. They are also asking that she send the entire class an email with the uncensored PowerPoint and admit making a mistake.
If the university does not respond by July 3, the Liberty Counsel has pledged to take further action.
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