The legal case which put the freedom of secular university instructors and students to question Judeo-Christian morality without facing a lawsuit for discriminating against Christians is returning to BC’s courts.
Cynthia Maughan, now 49, sued University of BC (UBC) in November 2002 after she unsuccessfully appealed the B-minus mark she received in English professor Lorraine Weir’s transgressive literature class.
Maughan, who identifies as Anglican, sued the university for allegedly discriminating against her as a Christian and subjecting her to hatred and contempt in its graduate English department. She named four teachers, including Weir, in the suit.
Maughan’s statement of claim focused on several incidents, including a three-year-old email exchange between herself and another graduate student in the department.
The student had been discussing then-Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day and his views on abortion and homosexuality. “How is it I owe respect to an individual who so obviously [has] no respect for huge elements of our society?” the student wrote. “Screw respect. He makes me recall fondly a time-period when Christians were stoned.”
Maughan alleged that that statement subjected her, as a Christian, to hatred and contempt.
She also said she missed out on at least one opportunity to further her understanding of the course material because Weir decided, along with the rest of the class, to hold an extra seminar on a Sunday. Maughan objected, saying the Sunday is her sabbath.
Her lawyer later admitted to reporters that Maughan had not regularly attended church in some time.
Maughan sought $18 million in damages from the university.
A BC Supreme Court judge rejected her arguments saying there was no evidence anyone had attempted to interfere with Maughan’s civil rights.
“This is a case which in the final analysis fails because it relies on speculation, innuendo and conjecture,” wrote Justice Austin Cullen in dismissing the case in January 2008.
Maughan also claimed Weir had been negligent in discussing the case with Xtra West.
The court held Weir had a “right and duty to respond robustly to allegations made against her in the public forum.”
Maughan is appealing Justice Cullen’s decision to dismiss her case. The case now awaits responses by August from the teachers and UBC.