Student Journalist originally ‘failed’ for reporting on actor’s Christianity

Posted on January 30, 2008. Filed under: Education Idiocy, Religion |

Don’t anybody try to tell me there is not religious discrimination in our colleges. The only reason this girl ended up getting her degree is because she was willing to push it and pursue legal options.

College reverses condemnation of story
Student journalist originally ‘failed’ for reporting on actor’s Christianity

Posted: January 30, 2008
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2008

Sara Sloan
Officials at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix have decided to reverse their earlier decision to deny a certificate to a journalism student because she wrote about actor Kirk Cameron’s Christian faith.
The American Center for Law & Justice confirmed that the school had notified the student, Sara Sloan, a degree and certificate she had earlier been denied were “available to be picked up at the college.”
The college’s earlier decision had denied Sloan the recognition that she had completed the journalism requirements because of her reporting on the Christian faith by which Cameron, the longtime star of Growing Pains, lives.
Astonishingly, the panel members, assembled by her professor, condemned her and then specifically wrote that her work was fine, it was her religion that posed the problem for them.
“I have to say ‘No’ to Sara,” wrote one of the evaluators of her work. “[M]y main problem with [Sara] is that she seems to approach all of her stories from a moralistic or even religious bent …. I think [Sara] has ample skills to find work in specialized publications but if the question were to be put to me to hire her or not, I would have to say not for most publications on the market place,” said one.
And a second, specifically noting Sloan’s profile of Cameron, who has worked on a number of projects with The Way of the Master, a Christian ministry run by evangelist Ray Comfort, wrote:
“You identify yourself as a Christian in your bio, and that certainly comes through in the bias of this article. . . . I believe it would be a turn-off to any religion editor or reader who wasn’t a born again Christian. . . . I would have found a way to make this article relevant and inspirational even to readers who aren’t hard-core Christians.”
Because the school requires her to get passing votes from six of nine evaluators, the two negative votes left her with five. The ACLJ noted that the Cameron article was the only one in her portfolio of articles that dealt in any significant way with the subject’s faith.
Other articles were about actor Hunter Gomez’ effort to reduce drinking and driving, a program to reduce the work loads for English faculty members, the opening of a museum in Scottsdale and the college’s wireless network.
ACLJ chief Jay Sekulow told WND the case was “one of the most dramatic attacks on student free speech and free press that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for 25 years.”
“They stated the reason she was being rejected was her ‘Christian’ bias. They didn’t like the fact she did the article on Kirk Cameron,” he said. “They flat-out said that.”
Such problems, however, are growing for university students of faith, because other similar cases are in the works right now for the ACLJ, he said.
The ACLJ got involved when the school notified the student of her “failure,” and it sent several letters to the school asking for action on the apparent problem.
“On Jan. 25, 2008, Sara received a letter stating that her degree and her certificate of completion in journalism were available to be picked up at the college,” the ACLJ said. “Sara went to the college and was able to pick up both her degree and her certificate. ACLJ Staff Counsel Erik Zimmermann spoke with Sara and her mother, and they were very pleased with this result. They were confident that the ACLJ’s letter made the difference in Sara receiving her certificate,” the ACLJ said.
A school spokesman, Rod Fensom, said he would look into the situation. He called back later to say the school would not comment.
“Federal confidentiality laws, specifically [the] Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, preclude us from discussing student matters. We must provide this student the same protections we provide to all students under the law,” he said.
On the student’s web profile, she said she plans to continue her school work at Arizona State University West by seeking a B.A. in communications.
She wrote for the Puma Press, including stints as news editor and religion editor, an assignment she held when she profiled Cameron.
The ACLJ said the negative results originally imposed by the school appeared to be a “denial of a student’s First Amendment rights.” The organization confirmed the student had earned top grades in every journalism course required for the journalism certificate, and “has been exempted from taking several final exams due to her outstanding grades.”
Then she ran into the final requirement for an Occupational Journalism Certificate – a review of her portfolio by a “jury” from nine writers, editors and producers from various media companies assembled by the professor.
The ACLJ sent letters to the school asking about the situation on Dec. 13, 2007, and again on Dec. 28.
It wasn’t until Jan. 15 when Sara’s “unofficial online transcript” stated she would get the certificate, the ACLJ said. The firm again tried to contact the school, without a response. But the school did send Sara the letter confirming she would be awarded the certificate on Jan. 25.


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