Court Upholds Expulsion of Counseling Student Who Opposes Homosexuality

Todd Starnes of Fox News reports that a federal judge has ruled in favor of Eastern Michigan University’s removal of a Christian student, Julea Ward, from its graduate program in school counseling over her belief that homosexuality is morally wrong. 

Monday’s ruling, according to Ward’s attorneys, could result in Christian students across the country being expelled from public universities for similar views. “It’s a very dangerous precedent,” Jeremy Tedesco, legal counsel for the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, told Fox News Radio. “The ruling doesn’t say that explicitly, but that’s what is going to happen.” 

U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed Ward’s lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University. She was removed from the school’s counseling program last year because she refused to counsel homosexual clients. The university contended she violated school policy and the American Counseling Association code of ethics. 

“Christian students shouldn’t be expelled for holding to and abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF senior counsel David French. “To reach its decision, the court had to do something that’s never been done in federal court: uphold an extremely broad and vague university speech code.” The Alliance Defense Fund will appeal the ruling. 

In his 48-page opinion, Judge Steeh claims the university had a rational basis for adopting the ACA Code of Ethics. “Furthermore, the university had a rational basis for requiring students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values,” he wrote in a portion of his ruling posted by The Detroit News. “In the case of Ms. Ward, the university determined that she would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs – including homosexual relationships.” 

There are several inconsistencies in Steeh’s judicial opinion. First, he claims she would be guilty of imposing her personal values, but then claims she would refuse to counsel clients on matters where her convictions were opposed to their views. Which is it? 

Second, what would a non-religious counselor do if faced, as they often are, with a client who wants to either leave a homosexual lifestyle or deal with homosexual lusts and tendencies? The answer is obvious since the ACA has ruled that all “Reparative Therapy” (attempts to help individuals who want to leave the homosexual lifestyle) is unethical. Thus they would either have to impose their values on their client or refuse to counsel the client—exactly what Ward is said to be doing. 

Third, counseling research has proven repeatedly that no counselor can counsel value-free. It’s obvious that the only values counselors are no longer free to practice are Christian values. 

Ward’s attorneys notes that the university told her she would only be allowed to remain in the program if she went through a “remediation” program so that she could “see the error of her ways” and change her belief system about homosexuality. 

Tedesco said this case and others like them (see, for example, the Augusta State University student told to change her Christian beliefs or leave) should be a warning to Christians attending public colleges and universities. “Public universities are imposing the ideological stances of private groups on their students,” he said. “If you don’t comply, you will be kicked out. It’s scary stuff and it’s not a difficult thing to see what’s coming down the pike.” 

Join the conversation. What is your opinion of the court’s ruling in this case?

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  1. TJ Parker said:

    “Second, what would a non-religious counselor do if faced, as they often are, with a client who wants to either leave a homosexual lifestyle or deal with homosexual lusts and tendencies?” There’s a good reason why no professional organization will recommend reparative therapy: because it has no foundation in science, and scientific studies of its effects show that (1) its no more effective than a placebo and (2) by a larger margin, it has an overall negative effect on the patient. (I.e. its just one more thing that they fail at.) I find it shameful that you guys would recommend desperate patients into the hands of charlatans, basing your decision on standards lower than what you would use to recommend veterinary treatment to a dog. May your next physician be a Christian Scientist.

    August 2, 2010
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  2. said:

    TJ, Thank you for commenting. First, no one actually made any recommendation–it was simply a statement of an alternative approach. Second, actually, there is much valid research on the various “reparative therapy” approaches. You might want to start by reading Yarhouse and Jones, Ex-gays?: A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation. Also, Throckmorton has written much on the research. Third, many “secular” therapies have either negative correlation of health or no research to assess benefit. In fact, much research even from “secular researches” has demonstrated that “lay helping” is more effective than professional therapy. Fourth, and most importantly, the original question still stands without a response: “what would a non-religious counselor do if faced, as they often are, with a client who wants to either leave a homosexual lifestyle or deal with homosexual lusts and tendencies?” This question gets at the heart of the issue. If the professional “secular” therapist insists that this person accept the prevailing secular values/ethics and “accept” their lifestyle, this is the clear imposition of the secular values upon a troubled client. Given that research indicates that 2/3 of all Americans are self-described “born again Christians” the onus is really on the secular therapist not to impose his/her values/ethics on the Christian client.

    August 2, 2010
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