LA SIERRA: First Amendment cited in university lawsuit

The Press Enterprise
By David Olson

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.

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. (Read more)

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6 thoughts on “LA SIERRA: First Amendment cited in university lawsuit

  1. It is my understanding that the University, as a corporation has no legal standing under the First Amendment of the Constitution, because they are a state entity. When they became a 501(c)3 corporation they forfeited their “rights”. As did the “church”, as it falls under “corporate law”, not individual freedoms. If the University leadership, the Conference leadership and the members at large had upheld the standards of the church in the first place this would not even be an issue.


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  2. No, Wayne, your understanding is wrong. I’m a law professor and I assure you that a church does not become a “state entity” or forfeit its constitutional rights just because it establishes a corporate structure or obtains a certain tax status with the government. Furthermore, corporations have constitutional rights.

    If a church has an educational ministry, it gets to decide who should be its ministers. The state can no more tell the church who should be its ministers than the church can tell the state who should run the government. If LaSierra is right that its administrators are part of its educational ministry, then the government cannot tell the church who should be its ministers or what procedure it should follow in selecting and deselecting its ministers.


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