TEMPLE UNIVERSITY STUDENT'S
CASE GOES TO TRIAL
March 13, 2005
1:00 AM Eastern
Back in May 2004, a federal court judge in Philadelphia ruled that former Temple University student, Michael Marcavage, could proceed to trial against two high level Temple officials. Marcavage alleges in his lawsuit that these officials tried to have him involuntarily committed to Temple University's hospital psychiatric ward in the fall of 2000 because of his religious beliefs and efforts to offer Christian fellowship on campus. Marcavage sought to offer an alternative to the play Corpus Christi which portrayed Jesus Christ and his disciples as homosexuals.
Temple University Vice President of Operations, William Bergman, and the Managing Director of Campus Safety Services, Carl Bittenbender, are named individually in the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges these indivdiuals were responsible for forcibly detaining and attempting to have Marcavage involuntarily committed; the lawsuit seeks unspecified money damages against Bergman and Bittenbender.
According to papers filed, "Bittenbender, in seeking to involuntarily commit Marcavage, claimed that Marcavage had “inflicted or attempted to inflict serious bodily harm on another . . .” and that Marcavage had “attempted suicide” and that there was a “reasonable probability” of suicide unless Marcavage received adequate treatment (the admitting form, by statute, requires that at least one of these factors be present before involuntary commitment can be sought). The admitting form warns that a person who makes false statements is subject to criminal penalty. Judge Petrese Tucker, in denying the officials’ motion to dismiss the claims against them, wrote, “Bittenbender . . . (in his deposition) conceded that he had no knowledge of (Marcavage) threatening or causing harm to others” and he “also conceded that he had no knowledge of (Marcavage) attempting suicide.”
Brian Fahling, Senior Trial Attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (CLP) is representing Marcavage. On the record he has stated that “what these men did to (Marcavage) is despicable, and now they are going to be held responsible for their actions. The arrogance and abuse of power evidenced in this case is particularly loathsome.” The Center for Law & Policy is a division of the American Family Association, Inc. The CLP restricts its practice to constitutional litigation in state and federal courts.
Jury selection finally began last week and the trial is now underway. For further information or information on attending the trial, contact the AFA Center for Policy and Law.
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Marcavage sought to offer an alternative to the play Corpus Christi which portrayed Jesus Christ and his disciples as homosexuals.