Topeka A national group that works to preserve the separation of church and state has written to Wichita State University, objecting to the fact that a chemistry professor there who reportedly objects to the state's concealed-carry gun laws for campuses regularly holds class at a religiously affiliated coffee shop off campus instead.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., sent the letter to WSU President John Bardo on Wednesday following a complaint it received from a WSU student, Sam Kier.
"A concerned WSU student has reported that Dr. Katie Mitchell-Koch requires students in her Physical Chemistry I class to meet off campus at Fairmount Coffee Company, a coffee shop run by a religious organization," Christopher Line, a legal fellow at FFRF wrote in the letter. "The coffee shop's website describes itself as 'An Outreach Ministry of the Lutheran Student Center.' We also understand that the coffee shop is filled with bible quotes and other religious iconography."
The letter went on to allege that WSU is violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by requiring students to enter a religious facility in order to attend class at a public, taxpayer-funded university.
Kier also forwarded a copy of the letter to the Journal-World. He also forwarded a copy of the original letter he sent to FFRF explaining the background.
In that letter, Kier said it was his understanding that Mitchell-Koch insisted on holding class off campus because of her religious beliefs. He indicated that after sending the letter, he was told that Mitchell-Koch objects to a new state law requiring public colleges and universities in Kansas to allow people to carry concealed firearms.
"There are no guns permitted whatsoever in the chemistry labs but the classrooms, conceal carry is allowed," Kier said in an email to the Journal-World.
He also noted that Mitchell-Koch teaches labs on campus.
Mitchell-Koch did not return a phone call Thursday seeking comment, and a spokesman for the university was not immediately able to comment either, although he did say he believes the situation has been resolved.
Kier indicated that he has since transferred out of the chemistry class.