Julea Ward is a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University's (EMU) School of Counseling. Ms. Ward is also a Christian who derives her fundamental beliefs and moral values from the Bible. The EMU counseling department requires students to affirm or validate homosexual conduct (specifically, homosexual sex) within the context of a counseling relationship and prohibits students from advising clients that they can refrain from homosexual conduct. Ms. Ward’s and EMU’s contrary views came to a head when Ms. Ward enrolled for the counseling practicum course in January 2009. During the practicum, counseling students, like Ms. Ward, counsel clients under the supervision of EMU faculty. The third client assigned to Ms. Ward was seeking counseling regarding a homosexual relationship. Ms. Ward asked whether she should see the client and refer him if necessary or refer the client to a different counselor prior to the initial appointment. EMU told Ms. Ward to have the client referred to a different counselor. Shortly thereafter, EMU initiated disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Ward. At an informal review meeting, EMU told Ms. Ward that the only way she could stay in the program was if she agreed to undergo a “remediation” program in which she would “see the error of her ways” and change her “belief system” as it relates to counseling about homosexual conduct to be consistent with EMU’s views on that matter. If Ms. Ward did not agree to undergo such reprogramming of her beliefs, her “options” were to leave the program voluntarily or to ask for a formal review hearing that would likely result in her expulsion from the program. Ms. Ward was unwilling to change her fundamental religious beliefs and views regarding homosexual behavior or to violate those beliefs by affirming and validating homosexual conduct within a counseling relationship, and so she requested a formal review hearing. The formal review committee dismissed Ms. Ward from the program on March 12, 2009. Ms. Ward appealed this decision to Defendant Polite, Dean of the College of Education, who upheld the dismissal on March 26, 2009.
On April 2, 2009, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom filed suit in federal district court on behalf of Ms. Ward against officials of EMU for violating her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by dismissing her from the University. The case is currently being litigated in federal court.
Christian students should not have to abandon their faith simply to obtain a university degree. Unfortunately, more and more universities like EMU are requiring students to reprogram their minds and disavow their beliefs solely to stay in school. A victory in this case will protect the fundamental right of Christian students to believe and live out their faith and ensure them equality of opportunity on campus.
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