You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 11:30 a.m.

State's attorney general backs Eastern Michigan University student who refused to counsel gay client

By Juliana Keeping

Julea Ward was acting within her rights when she refused to counsel a gay student while studying counseling at Eastern Michigan University, Michigan’s attorney general said.

Bill Schuette released a statement on his website supporting Ward’s civil suit against EMU, which dismissed Ward after she refused to affirm a gay client’s relationship in 2009. Ward later sued the university. She later told her supervisor at EMU she believes homosexuality is immoral and being gay is a choice and therefore could not in good conscience counsel the client.

A federal court dismissed the case in July, but Ward’s lawyers have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District to step in.

Thumbnail image for JuleaWard.jpg

Michigan's attorney general has released a statement indicating he supports the rights of former EMU student Julea Ward in her refusal to counsel a gay client. Ward says homosexuality is immoral.

Schuette has filed a brief in that court supporting Ward, according to his website.

“The religious freedoms enshrined in our Constitution do not evaporate when you step on campus," said Schuette in the web statement. "Unless these freedoms are vigorously defended, it sets a dangerous precedent that threatens education for all students of faith. We must strongly defend and protect the rights of any citizen to ensure the rights of all citizens."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has also weighed in on the issue, but in support of EMU’s decision to dismiss Ward.

“While counselors are certainly entitled to their own religious beliefs, EMU correctly took steps to prevent Ms. Ward from imposing those beliefs on her clients in the university’s training program,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, in a press release last month. “EMU would be remiss if it allowed counseling students to discriminate against clients for any reason, including sexual orientation.”

EMU responded to Schuette's in a statement on its website, saying the case is not about Ward's rights.

"This case has never been about religion or religious discrimination. It is not about homosexuality or sexual orientation. This case is about what is in the best interest of a client who is in need of counseling, and following the curricular requirements of our highly-respected and nationally-accredited counseling program, which adheres to the Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association and the Ethical Standards of the American School Counselor Association."

Juliana Keeping is a health and environment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

Bill Schuette needs to be voted out of office. The man is clearly out of touch with reality.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 6:17 p.m.

I give my blessings to Julea Ward and wish her success in her battle against injustice. It is not about religion, and it is not about discrimination. Man is a Moral being and has the ability to discern right from wrong. Counseling must involve the process of discovering the true nature of man and his existence.

Don Quick

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

translated from German c.1936


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 5:29 a.m.

The truly ironic aspect of this position of the Attorney General is that Eastern Michigan University is a public university created and governed under the auspices of the Michigan Constitution by popularly elected regents and receiving funding by the state and federal governments. If Bill Schuette's position is adopted by the SixthCircuit Court of Appeals, EMU has liability exposure for potentially millions of dollars.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 5:14 a.m.

She has her right to her beliefs, but EMU has their right as well to trim derelictions and bigotry from their payroll and/for integrity of their services. How hard is that if one isn't married to the party platform? It can be no less for a civil servant in discharge of sworn duties. Bill Shuette is pandering from office, just like anytime in his career. Ergo, he must resign.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 4:36 a.m.

dotdash, you nailed it. This is the reason to end term limits. Shuette is purely a career partisan who demonstrates if he fights for platform constituency while being tax payer employed, he is always on track to his new and expanded authority the counter-republicans will reward him for when Rick and his slicks have to leave office. As long as we condone it, this is merely as clearly the party state south of Canada.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

Sounds like it's time for a new attorney general. One who understands the difference between science and religion.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

Could not agree more, Macabre. Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 11:21 p.m.

What if another counselor whose interpretation of the Bible leads him/her to believe that blacks are inferior, and this belief subsequently results in him/her refusing to counsel a black student? Keep in mind that there are probably other counselors on staff who would not share this view, so the student's right to counseling is not being denied. I would love to see (just as a joke) a white counselor take this position just to see Ms. Ward's response. I already know what her response would be, she would be outraged, as would the Attorney General, and rightly so. Every person interested in justice should be equally as outraged at Ms. Ward's position, and that of the Attorney General. Ms. Ward has every right to practice her own private beliefs, no matter how bigoted they may be. However, I vehemently disagree that she has the right as a professional in the field of counseling at a public institution, to impose her beliefs in a manner which compromises her ability to do the job required of all other practitioners.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

Ward is in the same category as pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control , thereby making matters more difficult for clients who may be in crisis....and in her case based on a bigoted and baseless set of beliefs . EMU ( and ,for once, the ACLU which backs the institution in their action) was right in sacking her. Let her get her degree at Jerry Falwell U, or at Tom Monaghan's "educational" venue ( whose law school very likely orchestrated this whole issue to get a test case!) By Wardian logic neophyte students, not experienced professionals, would set their own standards and content in credentialing...a lousy precedent for any field from health care to plumbing..

Don Quick

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

my hero


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

Funny how the leftistst believe in freedom until it bumps up against their agenda........ She has every right to refuse -- just like you have every right toi be gay -- yuou just do not have a right to force others to accept your gayness

Don Quick

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

Or your loss of hearing.

David Briegel

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

yes, those evil leftists. you left out liberal and progressive!


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

They didn't force her to counsel the person, they just decided she wasn't an appropriate person to train. It's your tax dollars that are training her, so imagine that she had decided she wasn't going to counsel [fill in your ethnic or racial or gender or sexual preference group here]. Does that sound like someone who should get our limited dollars for public education?


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

"EMU correctly took steps, to prevent Ms. Ward from imposing those beliefs on her clients..." Huh?....Was it not, Ms Ward, who took the steps, to prevent this imposition of her beliefs? The ACLU find themselves again, playing the role of minority advocate, instead of constitutional defender. Go get em' Ms. Ward.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

To her credit, Ms. Ward did take the step of saying in advance, "I can't counsel this client." She also said "I can't support any clients's same-sex relationship." But the program she committed to requires that that students follow the professional code of ethics used by two big national professional organizations. Both codes say member counselors cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. EMU says if she can't abide by the professional code of behavior, she can't be in their program. I don't think the ACLU guy is characterizing the situation correctly, but neither do I think the student has a valid argument.

Will Warner

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

On the face of it, the AG's argument (as reported here) is asinine. It's not about religious freedom. If it were about anything like that it would be freedom of conscious. The only aspect of this case that makes it complicated is the fact that the employer is a tax-supported institution. Absent that, there is no issue. Private employers are not required to respect freedom of conscious but our society does require its government to do so. Furthermore, rights do not conflict. Anytime we speak of one right trumping another (e.g., from above, "Isn't it interesting that this 'argument' says that someone's religious beliefs trump someone's civil rights?") we misunderstand rights. We all have one and the same right: the right to be left alone. Choosing to end a relationship with someone (by firing her) does not violate her right to be left alone – unless, possibly, the employer is the government in some form. That said, it seems that it would not be that hard for EMU to have respected this person's freedom on conscious.

Will Warner

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:02 a.m.

Oops! Of course I meant freedom of CONSCIENCE.

Will Warner

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 12:30 a.m.

njgreg: What if she held those views, but they were not religiously motivated? Would it be OK then? I'm for respecting freedom of conscious, within limits of course.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 11:53 p.m.

I think that you're missing the issue here. The government shall not establish nor promote any religion. Eastern Michigan University is a public, state funded institution, which can acknowledge and abide Ms. Ward's religious expression as an individual. However, the University has a duty to insure that it does not demonstrate a religious preference in any of its policies/practices. Allowing Ms. Ward to place her religious beliefs above the policies of the counseling profession at this state funded institution creates a tenuous precedent.

average joe

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Did Ms. Ward actually deny anyone's "right" to be counseled? As I recall, Ms. Ward informed her supervisor that because of her beliefs she could not properly & effectively treat this client. She felt it would be in the best interest of the patient that he/she be refered to another counselor. In doing this, did not Ms. Ward show that she cares about the client & that he/she get the best treatment? And yes, I do somewhat agree with dotdash's statement. & as for Ickwbu's last sentence, you better hope for your soul's sake your're correct. But if you are wrong...


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

Attorneys have a "safety valve" under the rules of professional responsibility not to provide legal counsel to persons they may deem to be repugnant for whatever reason. A female criminal defense attorney is free to discriminate against accused rapists. An attorney morally opposed to abortion may decide he or she does not to represent someone whose beliefs are pro-choice in a case involving abortion. Attorney General Schuette made a correct decision.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 4:46 a.m.

She has her right to her beliefs, but EMU has their right as well to trim derelictions and bigotry from their payroll and/for integrity of their services. How hard is that if one isn't married to the party platform? It can be no less then from a civil servant in discharge of sworn duties. Bill Shuette is pandering from office, so he must resign.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

My point, David (presuming that the poster knows the ABA's practices) is that she was not becoming a lawyer, so what an attorney is or is not permitted to do is in no way, shape, or form germane to this discussion. Good Night and Good Luck

David Briegel

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:25 p.m.

Ghost, Even the bar has standards!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Too bad she wasn't going to law school. Then she'd have to abide by the ABA's standards. But she went to school to be a counselor, and she must abide by that profession's standards. Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

Ah BUT as AG should would not have the right to prosecute a person for having an abortion even if she believes it is wrong. LEGALLY, medically and in every other way gay is not wrong. HER BELIEFS DO NOT MATTER.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

I disagree with her beliefs about being gay is a choice or that it is immoral but I think she did what she could for the welfare of the patient. She had not yet established a patient/client relationship. She did not counsel the patient and impose her views during therapy. She made sure that he had another counselor. So I don't see why she cannot choose the type of problems that she will counsel. Other counselors choose not to counsel drug addiction, or sex addiction (I am not equating homosexuals with addicts but I am just saying other counselors chose what issues they feel comfortable dealing with). EMU seems to be saying that any student who cannot counsel any patient for any problem does not belong in the profession. That seems wrong to me.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

I don't think you understand what she did. She had never seen this patient before and she asked her instructor if she could have another student scheduled to see this patient. The instructor gave her permission. Thus, the patient was not abandoned and in fact did not even know that he was scheduled with a different counselor.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

I agree with ickwbu. It's her feeling entitled to judge the student that is the problem. She may just be young; she'll probably look back on this episode with great regret in a decade or so.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

Then she should have handled it better than stating that 'homosexuality is immoral.' If she felt unable to deal with homosexuality due to her beliefs, then she should have recommended someone else because she was unprepared. But bringing her Christianity into it means that she believes her religion trumps civil rights. There is no way of getting around that or spinning it to make it okay. It's still bigotry.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

Isn't it interesting that this 'argument' says that someone's religious beliefs trump someone's civil rights? If that's the case, can I be biased against Christians if they offend my religious beliefs, or is there a hierarchy here that counts Christian beliefs as inherently better? Just because I 'believe' something doesn't mean I have the right to deny someone their civil rights. Especially if that 'belief' is unproven absurdity designed just to repress people.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 12:03 a.m.

You can be biased against christians all day long as far as I'm concerned. This country puts far too much weight toward what christians think. Take a look at the article about the church music director. It's about time we acted a bit more like people do in Europe and other countries around the world. Enjoy your religion, but quite trying to shove it down people's throats. Back to the subject at hand. Obviously, this woman probably won't make a very good therapist if she only treats intolerant people like herself...I may be wrong, but isn't she a christian too? As the old saying goes, "Its not very christian of her....."


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Ickwbu, you have my support. I too feel that, unlike trespass, rational thought should certainly have a place in professional conduct. No matter what a professional's personal belief system may include or exclude, those biases should not have a place in the professional arena, in politics or in the marketplace. Trespass' statements are not only inaccurate, but smack of bigotry. And we certainly have enough of that in this country.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

your line of rational thought has no place in American politics. And to answer your initial question; yes there is a hierarchy, and yes, christianity is in charge and on top.

Peter Jameson

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Isn't it within the rights of the student to switch counselors? Everyone has different beliefs, so just switch until you find a counselor that suits your needs. It seems like public institutions on the outside are very open to diverse opinions, but when they are actually confronted with a lawsuit they always act in a way that quiets free speech. Could it be that gay people are easily offended? Or are they looking for a way to cause conflict?


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:38 a.m.

sbbuilder The ACA is very clear about what bigotry is. This bigot violated their ethics. There is also case law that supports EMU's decision. Of course a great mind like yours is already familiar with Bruff v. North Mississippi Health Services, Inc.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:40 a.m.

&quot;I would bet that you didn't visit a single website that I referenced above.&quot; I did. The first appears to be a website of a real psychologist who has received his training at an accredited university and who is a member &quot;in good standing&quot; in the APA. I say &quot;appears&quot; because it could be fiction but, assuming it to be fact, he is practicing in direct contradiction of the APA's clearly stated standards. See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Two of the links are to articles on WorldNetDaily, a website that is infamous for the fiction it publishes as fact. Moreover, neither of those pieces provide any credentials for their authors. Fail. The fourth site (actually, the second in the list): Did YOU look at it, Sb? I ask because it debunks most of the Christian crappola about teaching gays not to be gay. So, one website against the entire APA? That's your evidence. Bet you think global warming isn't happening, too, don't ya? After all, you only need one person's opinion on which you can hang your hat. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:22 a.m.

My comment was the one removed. So I'll try again. sbbuilder wrote: &quot;Your definition of bigotry?&quot; Bigotry: &quot;A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs. The predominant usage in modern English refers to persons hostile to those of differing race, ethnicity, nationality, inter-regional prejudice, gender and sexual orientation, homelessness, various medical disorders particularly behavioral disorders and addictive disorders and religion or spirituality.&quot; Source: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Ms. Ward's actions fall under this definition of bigotry. I know lots of &quot;Christian&quot; churches where such beliefs are perfectly acceptable. Indeed, they are required. She ought seek her profession in one of them. There. There. Does that work? Good Night and Good Luck

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

mr builder, I'll bet they adhere to the standards of their chosen profession. Somethng your heroine cannot seem to accomplish!!


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

Continuing for Mr Briegel I would bet that you didn't visit a single website that I referenced above. If you did, you would see that the psychiatrists who do the counceling are board certified in good standing with the APA, and are professors at major universities. Anti-intellectual indeed.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 11:12 p.m.

Mr Briegel Nowhere have I mentioned the word Christian, or referred to the Christian faith. In point of fact, I would refer you to the billions of Muslims who adhere to the same position. What of them? How about Orthodox Jews? I could go on. Your see, your argument about anti-intellectualism is simply flawed. Unless, of course, you judge billions of people throughout the world to be bigots, and anti-intellectuals. That is quiet narrow thinking indeed. A challenge for you Mr Briegel: be specific, enumerate what is anti-intellectual.

Cindy Heflin

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

A comment that violated our conversation guidelines was removed. Please do not engage in name-calling.

David Briegel

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

Mr builder, once again you try to interject your pseudo Christian beliefs into the argument. She simply cannot follow the code of ethics of her chosen profession. And you believe that students have the right to determine the standards for their future profession. Simply laughable!! Anti-intellectualism is a form of bigotry. The worst form!!


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

Your question shows that you don't understand the fundamentals of the case. EMU's training program teaches the professional code of conduct of two national professional associations (American Counseling Association and American School Counselor Association). Both of these organizations have codes of ethics that don't allow member counselors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (among other things). When this student said she couldn't support any gay client's relationship, she essentially said &quot;My beliefs don't allow me to follow the code of ethics required by the training program.&quot; The school then ruled that if she can't follow that code, you can't be in the program. It doesn't have anything to do with gay people being easily offended or trying to cause conflict.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

Garrett Your definition of bigotry? Someone who doesn't agree with your opinion? What is your basis for labelling someone a bigot? Ms Ward made a decision based on her beliefs, which by the way, well over half of the world agree with. Are those billions of people all bigots? Ms Ward chose to take a stand, disregarding the potential flack headed her way. That takes a lot of guts.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

Could it be the religious woman is the one who is easily offended? What if she were a doctor who had the religious belief that Muslims were evil. Should she be allowed not to treat them? Should she be allowed to say she won't operate on republicans because she does not like their political views? If she were a science teacher and she believed the earth was flat should she be allowed to &quot;teach&quot; it to students? Her beliefs are not important and do not matter. What if she were a lawyer and believed killing abortion doctors was justifiable homicide, should she be allowed to bring her RELIGIOUS views in her professional life? The answer to any right minded person is of course not.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

You bet they are. And they should. Wherever you confront ignorance and bigotry it is one's moral duty to confront it.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

People who think judging others is more important than counseling them should probably not be counselors -- just a thought.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

&quot;It is simply impossible to not have some sort of judgement of another. We make judgements of people every single day on many different levels.&quot; Yes, we do. The problem is not when people judge. The problem is when people judge based on bigotry, when they act on that bigotry, and when, as in this case, they violate the standards established by the profession concerned. Good Night and Good Luck

David Briegel

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

Not everyone is willing to condemn others to eternal damnation in a burning hell. But some are. Not judgemental though!?


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

It is simply impossible to not have some sort of judgement of another. We make judgements of people every single day on many different levels.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 6:51 p.m.

I agree


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Our tax dollars at work. lIke we have no REAL problems that need to be dealt with! Nothing has changed in the AG office. Shirvall and Cox might as well still be there.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

Being black is as much of a choice as being gay.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 5:21 a.m.

mrm: The difference is that EMU is a governmental entity open to the public. A private church or club not open to the public does have the power to discriminate on all types of bases. EMU as a public university is governed by federal and state civil rights statutes.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:32 a.m.

SBBUILDER' It's interesting you post a link to Religious Tolerance that argues &quot;conversion therapy&quot; is ineffective. Perhaps you should read what you post, but your position alrerady reveals you to be fairly illiterate.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:30 a.m.

Roadman, we know being Black is clearly a mutable charactersitc. Look at Michael Jackson. Suppose a member of a Christian Identity church says they won't counsel &quot;immoral&quot; African-Americans until they get their skin bleached and hair strightened? The ACA is clear on this ethical principle- no discrimination.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

I have actually seen this issue raised in a context of constitutional law where one of the factors of protecting a certain class of persons against discrimination is whether they have an immutable characteristic. The contitutional law analysis in protecting gays and extending Equal Protection Clause rights to them as has been done with blacks and other minorities is often analogized to a person's race status. There are those who believe a gay identity is not immutable and no constitutional protection should attach. Others disagree.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

&quot;Not all agree with your sentiment&quot; Indeed, and there are people who believe in Santa Clause, who believe man didn't land on the moon, and who believe Joe DiMaggio was behind JFK's assassination. The American Psychological Assosiation, whose members know something about the subject, says it is not a choice. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> But, like climate change deniers, we wouldn't want science to have anything to say about this. No, bar better to let Christian bigots decide the truth. Good Night and Good Luck


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

Not all agree with your sentiment: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>