By Tara Cavanaugh
The Sixth Circuit heard a case yesterday involving a woman who was dismissed from a counseling program at Eastern Michigan University.
Julea Ward was a graduate student in EMU’s counseling program in 2009 when she refused to counsel a gay client.
According to Ward’s filed complaint, she believes that homosexual conduct is immoral sexual behavior and that “individuals are capable of refraining from such conduct.”
Ward’s complaint also says that EMU “requires students to affirm or validate homosexual conduct.”
EMU follows the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics.
Under its nondiscrimination policy, the ACA rules that “Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion, spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status/partnership, language preference, socioeconomic status or any basis prescribed by law.”
Ward alleges her First Amendment rights have been violated.
The ACLU filed a brief in support of EMU, writing that the First Amendment does not bar a public university from requiring students to counsel clients in a manner consistent with the University’s counseling curriculum and the ethical code governing the profession that the student is being trained to enter.
Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a brief in support of Ward. “The religious freedoms enshrined in our Constitution do not evaporate when you step on campus,” said Schuette. “Unless these freedoms are vigorously defended, it sets a dangerous precedent that threatens education for all students of faith. We must strongly defend and protect the rights of any citizen to ensure the rights of all citizens.”
Ward, who worked full-time as a public school teacher while studying to become a high school counselor, had a 3.91 GPA.
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