Bill named for EMU student dismissed for refusing to counsel gay client clears committee
A bill prohibiting religious discrimination against college students studying counseling, social work and psychology has cleared a House Committee, the Holland Sentinel reported.
The bill was prompted by the case of Julea Ward, who was kicked out of a counseling program at Eastern Michigan University because she refused to counsel a gay student about a relationship. She said doing so conflicted with her Christian religious beliefs. She instead referred the student to another counselor.
A three-judge panel of the court said a jury could conclude the university used a code of ethics it adheres to "as a pretext for punishing Ward’s religious views and speech" and sent the case back to a lower court. EMU denies any bias.
Representatives of psychological and social work organization warned members of the House Education Committee during testimony that the bill could jeopardize accreditation for universities’ counseling programs.
Bill 5040 also is known as the "Julea Ward freedom of conscience act," the newspaper reported.
The bill and two House resolutions urging Congress and public universities to end religious discrimination now go to the full House, the Sentinel reported.