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Christian Student Files Federal Lawsuit after Illinois University Punishes Her for Sharing Her Beliefs with Classmates

Christian Student Files Federal Lawsuit after Illinois University Punishes Her for Sharing Her Beliefs with Classmates

A female Christian student is suing her former graduate school, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), after the university disciplined her for sharing her Christian and conservative views with fellow students.

In February, officials at SIUE issued no-contact orders against 26-year-old Maggie DeJong, who graduated from the school last month, after three students complained that her beliefs constituted "harassment" and "discrimination."

DeJong, who was enrolled in SIUE's Art Therapy program, filed a federal lawsuit against the school on Tuesday for violating her constitutional rights. She is being represented by the conservative Christian advocacy legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the lawsuit, DeJong v. Pembrook, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

"Rather than accept and embrace diverse ideological perspectives, SIUE officials are determined to force their graduate students to think and speak exactly the same—or stay silent—and they will punish anyone who steps out of line," ADF Senior Counsel Gregg Walters said in a statement.

"Maggie has always respectfully shared her religious or political views, which every student is entitled to do under the First Amendment," Walters continued. "It is a sad day for civil dialogue and freedom of speech when universities can issue gag orders like those issued against Maggie for nothing more than expressing her beliefs—beliefs held by millions of Americans."

According to the civil complaint, DeJong regularly posted her opinions on her social media accounts, sent messages to classmates, and participated in class discussions on various topics, including religion, politics, critical race theory (CRT), COVID-19 regulations and censorship.

"Under the Art Therapy Program's 'anti-oppressive framework' and calls for 'social justice,' Ms. DeJong's speech was often seen as 'harmful,'" the lawsuit states.

In response, the SIUE issued the no-contact orders against DeJong and threatened "disciplinary consequences" should she violate the orders. Additionally, the Art Therapy program director e-mailed over 30 students in the program confirming that DeJong was under investigation in light of allegations of "misconduct" and "oppressive acts."

The investigation against DeJong was later dropped after ADF attorneys sent a letter to SIUE contending that the school's actions against the former grad student for her beliefs were unconstitutional.


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Photo courtesy: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.