A federal judge has ruled that a Michigan university did nothing wrong when it removed a Christian student from its graduate counseling program because her belief that homosexuality is wrong led her to refuse to work with gay and lesbian clients.
US District Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed (Julea) 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.
That code, by the way, is clear about what is expected from counselors:
Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status/partnership, language preference, socioeconomic status, or any basis proscribed by law. Counselors do not discriminate against clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants in a manner that has a negative impact on these persons.
It would seem that someone going into counseling would understand what kind of conduct is expected of them. To refuse would be like a doctor refusing to take the Hippocratic Oath. They wouldn’t make the final cut, either.
This doesn’t bode well for Jennifer Keeton, who is suing Augusta State University in Georgia for her threatened expulsion from the counseling program there. In her lawsuit, Keeton complained that the school has threatened her “simply because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she holds to Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and gender identity.”
As US District Judge George Caram Steeh ruled in the Michigan case:
”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.”
Judge Steeh is a Clinton appointee, so I’m sure he’ll be plastered with the “activist judge” label, but he shouldn’t be. The cases at hand involve taxpayer-funded public universities where religion cannot be touted or given preferential treatment. In addition, those who enter the counseling profession and seek professional recognition from outfits like the ACA, or the American Psychological Association, must know that counseling is a profession where the matter of homosexuality is a settled question. A counselor is welcome to think it’s a sin all they want, but they cannot treat it as a sickness in need of a cure.
Would Ms. Ward or Ms. Keeton have trouble counseling a Muslim, an adulterer, or a murderer? Could they put aside their personal prejudices against these sorts of people long enough to actually help them achieve mental wholeness or stability? If not, then counseling probably isn’t the right profession for them.
As for universities threatening to expel such students from their courses, why would they not have that right? If you cannot meet the criteria set forth, then you should not be allowed to receive certification or be allowed to continue the program.
Private Christian educational systems have no compunction about expelling those who disagree with their criteria. Just ask Jarretta Hamilton, a fourth grade teacher at Florida Christian School, who was fired after she got pregnant nearly a month before marrying her fiancé. Or, ask Bruce K. Waltke, an Old Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, based in Jackson, Mississippi, who was fired after saying Christians can believe in evolution.
The religious right can’t have it both ways—expelling and firing people they disagree with while suing other schools who do the same.