Julea Ward, a graduate student, was expelled from the counseling program at Eastern Michigan University (“EMU”).  What was the infraction that made her worthy of expulsion?  She had the brazen audacity to try to avoid violation of her Christian beliefs by referring a potential client, who sought counseling for a homosexual relationship, of which Ms. Ward did not approve because of her Christian beliefs, to another counselor.  Of course, counseling referrals are a common and accepted professional practice.  But Ms. Ward ran afoul of the sodomitic community’s enablers in academia.

EMU began its disciplinary process against Ms. Ward shortly after she enrolled in a counseling practicum course in January 2009, when she was assigned a potential client seeking assistance regarding a homosexual relationship.  Ms. Ward recognized the potential conflict with her religious convictions regarding the client, and she asked a supervisor how to handle the matter.  The supervisor advised Ms. Ward to simply reassign the potential client to a different counselor, which she then did.  Immediately after that, EMU informed Ms. Ward that she could only remain in the counseling program if she agreed to undergo a “remediation” program, which would help her “see the error of her ways” and change her “belief system” as it relates to counseling about homosexual relationships.

Earlier in 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in her favor, and reversed the district court’s decision in favor of EMU, and sent the case back for trial, writing, “A reasonable jury could conclude that Ward’s professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith….”  Moreover, the appellate decision notes, “A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree.”  The appellate court noted:

Ward was willing to work with all clients and to respect the school’s affirmation directives in doing so.  That is why she asked to refer gay and lesbian clients (and some heterosexual clients) if the conversation required her to affirm their sexual practices. What more could the [non-discrimination] rule require?  Surely, for example, the ban on discrimination against clients based on their religion (1) does not require a Muslim counselor to tell a Jewish client that his religious beliefs are correct if the conversation takes a turn in that direction and (2) does not require an atheist counselor to tell a person of faith that there is a God if the client is wrestling with faith-based issues.  Tolerance is a two-way street.  Otherwise, the rule mandates orthodoxy, not anti-discrimination.

Following remand, EMU has now agreed to settle the case brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Ms. Ward, by paying her monetary damages and to remove the expulsion from her record.  Perhaps some of the EMU faculty and administrators should undergo a “remediation” program, which would help them see the error of their ways and change their belief system, so such things never occur again.

Reasonably, and as recognized by the appellate court, a public university should not force students to violate their religious beliefs to get a degree.  We should all be pleased that Ms. Ward and her constitutionally protected rights were vindicated.  Kudos to you, Ms. Julea Ward, and to your attorneys.  May God continue to bless you as you minister to others, and as you boldly serve our Lord Jesus Christ.