Student evicted after sharing COVID-19 religious exemption information, settles with university

The student, a Russian immigrant, received a religious exemption from the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The law firm representing the student demanded the her record to be cleared and that the university ‘issue a written apology.’

Law firm First Liberty announced that Oakland University (OU) in Michigan settled with former student, Inara Ramazanova after the university evicted her in 2021 for sharing information on how to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine religious exemption on Facebook.

“First Liberty is happy to announce a victory for our client, Inara Ramazanova,” the announcement read. “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.”

OU did not admit to any wrongdoing or issue an apology. 

First Liberty attorney Danielle Runyan told Campus Reform that they "recognize this as a win for an Inara."

"We appreciate Oakland University, bringing this case to a positive conclusion, and that we're able to speak publicly about the fact that Inara was simply exercising her free speech rights by sharing information on social media," Runyan said. 

Ramazanova, a Russian immigrant, received a religious exemption for the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate before the fall 2021 semester. She posted information regarding her exemption in a Facebook group, saying she “hope[d] it would be useful to others.”

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After Ramazanova shared the post, OU claimed that she had violated university policy and held a hearing on Aug. 6, 2021. 

The committee determined that "posting how she asked for a received a religious
exemption constituted 'collusion or conspiracy' to violate OU policies.”

No specific policies were mentioned by the committee, however. 

Three days later, Ramazanova was informed that due to the results of the hearing, she would not be eligible for housing for the 2021-2022 school year and put a “disciplinary notation” in her student records that will remain on file for “seven years from the date of the hearing.”

In response, First Legal sent a demand letter to OU condemning the decision, stating that it violated both the First Amendment and the Fair Housing Act.

“OU’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 OU…violated Mr. Ramazanova’s rights under the First Amendment…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,” the letter read.

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First Legal concluded the letter with a demand for Ramazanova’s record to be cleared and for her to be issued “a written apology.” 

“We, therefore, demand that, within ten (10) days of this letter, the Dean of Students expunge Ms. Ramazanova’s August 6, 2021, disciplinary record finding her responsible for ‘conspiracy or collusion’ and issue her a written apology and assurance that students at OU may exercise their constitutional right to freedom of speech without being subjected to the same retaliatory and discriminatory treatment,” the letter stated. 

Runyan also told Campus Reform that Ramanova is "happy this incident is behind her and...very much grateful for her time at Oakland University."

Campus Reform contacted First Liberty, UM, and Ramaznova and will update this article accordingly. 

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