Eastern Michigan University can kick out students in its counselor program who refuse to treat gay patients without telling them what they’re doing is disgusting, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Julea Ward (pictured) was axed from EMU’s graduate counseling program in March 2009 for, according to her attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund, “not affirming homosexual behavior as morally acceptable.” The school requires counselors in training to accept gay clients — but Ward said instead she’d refer those clients to another counselor, because she could not treat them according to her religious beliefs. As Inside Higher Ed points out:
Eastern Michigan’s counseling program — like many others — requires its students to practice in ways that are consistent with the counseling association’s ethics code, including requirements that bar behavior that reflects an “inability to tolerate different points of view,” “imposing values” on clients or discrimination based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation. The counseling association does permit referrals, but they are supposed to be for the good of the client, not for the comfort of the counselor. Typically, a referral that would be seen as legitimate might involve a counselor referring someone to a colleague with expertise on a particular problem.
Ametrano, the Eastern Michigan professor, who was on the review panel that expelled Ward, said that the requirements that counselors work with clients of a range of views and background are essential. She noted that counselors regularly work with clients who make decisions about such matters as birth control, sex, drug use, abortion and many other choices that a counselor may or may not support. And clients come from a variety of backgrounds and sexual orientations. A counselor can’t be effective, she said, with litmus tests on who may be helped.
U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh issued a 48-page summary judgment in favor of EMU in the lawsuit filed in April 2009, saying the school’s requirements — and adherence to the American Counseling Association’s ethics code — didn’t infringe on her right to religious expression, free expression, due process or equal protection. Says EMU in response: “We are pleased that the court has upheld our position in this matter. Julea Ward was not discriminated against because of her religion. To the contrary, Eastern Michigan is deeply committed to the education of our students and welcomes individuals from diverse backgrounds into our community.”
Sounds like Jennifer Keeton, the Augusta State University student kicked out of her counseling program for the same reason, and who the Alliance Defense Fund is also representing, was just dealt quite the uphill battle.
ADF plans to appeal Ward’s case.