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Religious liberty rights upheld for West Virginia University professor

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6 2013 2:55 p.m. MST

A dispute allegedly began between West Virginia University and professor Dr. Byron C. Calhoun over his pro-life volunteer work with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. The dispute has been resolved.

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Disputes and cases of religious liberty continue to pop up across the country — including in universities, the Supreme Court and Congress.

A recent dispute about religious liberty between West Virginia University and a professor of its school of medicine has been resolved, according to a statement released by the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group that aided the professor.

The dispute allegedly began when WVU gave professor Dr. Byron C. Calhoun “a written professional reprimand after his pro-life volunteer work received media attention,” according to the Charleston Daily Mail. Calhoun also works as the national medical advisor for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates and volunteers in pro-life work that “is anchored in his religious convictions,” according to the Liberty Institute.

Once Calhoun “turned to Liberty Institute for help” and the institute threatened legal action, “the University backed off, claiming it never officially filed the reprimand against Dr. Calhoun — despite having provided him with a copy,” according to the statement.

"The University made the right decision to withdraw its threat of a reprimand," said Roger Byron, Liberty Institute attorney in the statement. "A government entity must never be allowed to intimidate, threaten or penalize anyone for their religious exercise and related activities. We are pleased that Dr. Calhoun may continue his invaluable volunteer pro-life work without fear of reprisal from WVU."

But the Daily Mail reported WVU took issue with how the Liberty Institute chronicled events.

"Events did not occur as characterized in the release from Liberty Institute," said Amy Johns, director of public affairs to the Daily Mail.

Religious liberty is making headlines across the nation, as the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments Wednesday and this week on “a case that could determine the place of prayer in legislative meetings, and what role religion plays in the public sphere,” according to a Deseret News article.

And religious leaders spoke out against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, saying that the bill, “which is expected to pass the Senate” and “would ban workplace discrimination against homosexuals and transgendered persons,” threatens religious liberty, according to Catholic World News.

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @hscribner

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