by Mia Gradick • 4 min read
First Liberty is happy to announce a victory for our client, Inara Ramazanova. We recently reached an agreement with Oakland University in Michigan, which wrongfully evicted Inara from campus housing simply because she shared information on social media about religious accommodations for COVID-19 vaccinations. The matter was amicably resolved without any admission of liability or wrongdoing by OU.
Justin Butterfield, Deputy General Counsel at First Liberty, explains:
“We appreciate Oakland University bringing this case to a positive conclusion. Inara was simply exercising her free-speech rights by sharing information on social media. She is happy this incident is behind her, and she is grateful for her time at OU.”
Last summer, OU granted Inara, who immigrated from Russia, a religious accommodation from the university’s vaccine mandate. The accommodation would have allowed the Russian immigrant to reside on campus for the 2021-2022 academic year.
However, the university then evicted her from campus after she shared about her request and accommodation in a Facebook group with the hope that it would be useful to others. In fact, many members in the group had already asked questions on how to best express their sincerely held beliefs and obtain a religious accommodation.
Though Inara merely shared her story to lend a helping hand, the University Conduct Committee claimed her posts amounted to “collusion or conspiracy.”
The eviction from campus housing forced Inara to spend her final semester at home. It placed a disciplinary record in her student file, which could have potentially affected her future academic or professional pursuits.
We asked the university to apologize to Inara for discriminating against her, and to vindicate her record and her name. The action was critical in our ongoing fight to hold colleges and universities accountable.
We explained in our letter:
“Oakland University’s disciplining and evicting Ms. Ramazanova because she shared about her religious convictions regarding vaccination and about how she sought and received a religious accommodation from Oakland University—all in an effort to more effectively exercise her civil rights and aid others in doing the same—violated Ms. Ramazanova’s rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects free speech and religious exercise, and the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits both religious discrimination in housing and taking actions against a person for aiding others in having their religious rights in housing respected.”
Unfortunately, Inara’s case is not the first of its kind, as students, employees and even military service members continue to be discriminated against for living out their faith and engaging in constitutionally protected speech.
That’s why our legal team continues to lead this crucial effort to stop discrimination against people of all faiths across the country. Religious students should not be treated as second-class citizens. It’s wrong and unlawful to punish them, threaten their careers and tarnish their records.
As we celebrate a win for Inara, we want to thank you for supporting First Liberty. You’re the driving force that helps deliver these crucial victories. Securing freedom for people of faith like Inara has a multiplied impact, because winning for one American helps protect religious liberty for millions across our country.