SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah (search) agreed Wednesday to let students opt out of activities that conflict with their religious beliefs, settling a lawsuit brought by a Mormon drama student who refused to recite lines that contained the f-word and took the Lord's name in vain.
Christina Axson-Flynn (search), 24, had sued the university in federal court, accusing it of violating her right to freedom of speech and religion.
She said that after refusing to recite the lines in an acting class during the 1998-99 school year, she feared theater department professors would retaliate against her, so she withdrew from the university.
Under the settlement, she will be reimbursed $3,000 to $4,000 in tuition. The university also agreed to let her re-enroll, although Axson-Flynn said she planned to attend a different school.
University of Utah attorney John Morris sought to ease some professors' fears that under the settlement, students would be able to pressure faculty to change the curriculum.
Under the settlement, a student's request to be excused from a class exercise on religious grounds will need the approval of a professor, a dean or a university vice president.
University officials said in the past, students could be excused from exercises for religious reasons, but the settlement establishes a policy.
Axson-Flynn said she still plans to pursue acting and does not think she will have trouble in the industry because of her beliefs. She said her mother, a stage actress, and her father, also an actor, have been successful despite their religious convictions.
"I wouldn't have a hard time at all making a career in acting holding to morals, no matter what those morals were," she said.