Canadian university expels medical student for anti-abortion, conservative Facebook posts

According to the associate dean for undergraduate medical studies, the student's apologies were 'insufficiently remorseful and sincere, as they did not include testimony to a change in beliefs.'
Tue Nov 17, 2020 - 12:27 pm EST
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MANITOBA, Canada, November 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian medical student in Manitoba, Canada, has been expelled from university for expressing anti-abortion and pro-gun views on Facebook.

Rafael Zaki is a Coptic Christian, who left Egypt along with his parents, in order to be able to practise their religion freely. His parents are both very successful in medicinal careers, The Post Millennial (TPM) reports, and as Zaki aimed to follow in their footsteps, he entered the Max Rady College of Medicine in the University of Manitoba.

But the university has now expelled Zaki due to his anti-abortion, as well as for his pro-gun beliefs, which he had expressed on his personal Facebook page.

In February 2019, eighteen anonymous complaints were filed against him, alleging that his writings on Facebook made others feel “unsafe.” The writings referred to were pro-gun posts and a long anti-abortion essay, which had previously been composed for Zaki’s Sunday School.

Following a resulting investigation, Zaki was ordered to attend seven meetings with Dr. Ira Ripstein, the associate dean for undergraduate medical studies. 

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TPM records that Zaki had to pen a total of ten letters to both teachers and students, apologizing for any offence caused through stating his views on Facebook. The original posts were later deleted by Zaki, less than twenty-four hours after the original allegations. 

Ripstein’s meetings, and the subsequent letters, were supposedly a way for Zaki to avoid any disciplinary action being taken against him. 

But TPM reports that “[a]ccording to Dr. Ripstein, the apologies were insufficiently remorseful and sincere, as they did not include testimony to a change in [Zaki’s] beliefs”.

Both Ripstein and other students persisted to state that they felt unsafe with Zaki, and Ripstein claimed that the apologies were even insincere, since “they did not include testimony to a change in his beliefs.” In his posts online, Zaki had compared abortion to the Holocaust, and continued, in line with his Christian faith, to hold that abortion was a moral evil. 

Due to not changing his beliefs, Zaki was then expelled from Rady College at the end of August, 2019, under the “Student Non-Academic Misconduct and Concerning Behaviour Procedure.” 

Zaki was allowed to continue attending his lectures until any appeals were finished, but his subsequent appeals against the decision failed. 

In an affidavit as part of the appeal process, Zaki declared that the university had violated its own procedures. The policyunder which he was expelled, states that the university may not control a student’s social media unless “matters regarding the University are a significant focus of the communication,” which they were not. 

The university also violated its principles in other areas, notably by not properly informing Zaki of the complaints against him, as well as all the evidence and identities of the complainants. 

The Post Millennial mentions that Zaki has still not learnt the identities of those who complained against him. 

In July of this year, the university decreed that “on the balance of probabilities, Zaki had committed an act of Non-Academic Misconduct in the form of professional misconduct.” Furthermore, the disciplinary committee stated that Zaki’s statements were “misogynistic and hostile to women,” thus causing a “negative impact on the learning and work environment.” 

The university’s disciplinary committee also declared that “a change in the Appellant’s behaviour was essential in order to meet the professionalism standards set by the UGME policies.”

Dr. Ripstein was involved as “a principal in decision-making at every stage of the case up to the last appeal.” Zaki’s affidavit noted that Ripstein’s own views of abortion and gun rights, “alleged further wild accusations.”

Aside from violating the policy under which Zaki was originally expelled, the decision also violated the University of Manitoba’s Disclosure and Complaints Procedure. That document includes “Religion or creed, or religious belief,” as well as “Political belief, political association or political activity,” as “Protected Characteristic[s]” which are to be protected from any discrimination. 

Zaki’s religious beliefs pertaining to the immorality of abortion, and his political views in favour of gun ownership, should thus have been free from discrimination according to the university’s own policies.

The U.K based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, (SPUC), issued a statement on Zaki’s expulsion: “The bigoted treatment of Rafael Zaki is an appalling and blatantly anti-Christian violation of free speech. His family fled Egypt to escape this sort of persecution.”

SPUC continued, “According to the university’s college of medicine, it cannot admit any student who is against abortion. Not only does this constitute persecution of pro-lifers, but it also bars devout Christians from learning medicine. This is a classic case of a kangaroo court violating a man’s right to free speech and free practice of religion.”

The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship also responded to the university’s decision, calling it a rejection of the “long-standing democratic freedom” to express one’s beliefs, and “opening the door to the imposition of other non-academic tests for university membership.”

Zaki has set up a fundraising page, to raise funds to continue his legal battle with the university.

Contact information for respectful communications to the Max Rady College of Medicine in the University of Manitoba can be found here.

  abortion, anti-christian bias, canada, manitoba, max rady college of medicine in the university of manitoba, rafael zaki, religious freedom, religious liberty

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