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-US 6th Circuit: Rules in Favor of Expelled Student and Religious Freedom

by Dr. D ~ January 27th, 2012


          (Julea Ward from ADF website)

Today (Friday 1/27/12), the US 6th Circuit ruled in favor of a graduate student who was expelled from a university counseling program because of her Christian beliefs about homosexuality. It is a real victory for religious freedom.

Here’s a summary of the case according to Citizen Link:

“The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that a graduate student’s First Amendment rights were likely violated when Eastern Michigan University (EMU) expelled her from the counseling program in which she was enrolled.

In her graduate-level practicum in 2009, Julea Ward was assigned a client seeking help in reconciling her same-sex relationship in 2009. Ward, who is a Christian, didn’t feel she’d be the best counselor for that case, so she asked her supervisor how to handle it — and her supervisor referred the client to another qualified professional, a standard counseling practice. But afterward, EMU started disciplinary proceedings against her, and ultimately expelled her from the program because of her religious beliefs.”

The Alliance Defense Fund represented Ward in the case and applauded the outcome. The 6th Circuit overturned a lower court’s ruling in favor of the university. Here’s some more info about this case from the ADF website:

“…EMU informed Julea that she would need to undergo a “remediation” program in order to stay in the counseling program. Its purpose was to help her “see the error of her ways” and change her “belief system.” At a formal review hearing, EMU faculty belittled her Christian views and asked her several inappropriate questions concerning her faith. A few days later, Julea was notified by letter that she had been dismissed from EMU’s graduate program.”

In the ruling, the 6th circuit wrote the following:

“A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems… as the price for obtaining a degree. Tolerance is a two-way street.”

Response: This is not the first case of this kind and it unfortunately will not be the last. When I first read of the case today I mixed it up with another very similar situation:

-University Tells Student to Abandon Christian Faith or Else

It is amazing how similar the cases really are. It is good to see this one resolved the way that it did in support of religious freedom. However, you can expect more of these in the future.

I suspect that many Christian students have been discriminated against in the past and now in the future, administrators will be far more subtle in dropping students from their programs dredging up alternate reasons for dismissal. As it stands, administrators from Eastern Michigan University now claim that Ward was not dismissed for religious reasons nor was it about homosexuality but solely about the ethical standards that professional counselors are expected abide by;

“Those Ethical Standards require that counselors are not to allow their personal values to intrude into their professional work."

The real question before us –are we facing a time in the near future when Christians will no longer be allowed to seek certain professions because the prevailing ‘ethical standards’ defined by professional associations proactively require Christians to check their religious ‘values’ at the door?

This seems to be the approach that some university counseling programs are taking. In order to complete a university counseling program is it now necessary for Christians to ignore their religious values and beliefs? That is what administrators at Eastern Michigan university are saying and it also seems to be the situation in the other case at Augusta State University.               *Top

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