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Posted on Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 10:45 a.m.

Appeals court hearing case of Julea Ward, kicked out of EMU program for refusing to counsel gay student

By Cindy Heflin

The U.S. Court of Appeals is expected to hear arguments today in the case of Julea Ward, who was kicked out of Eastern Michigan University’s graduate counseling program after refusing to counsel a gay student.

Ward said homosexuality was against her religious beliefs. Ward had referred the client to another counselor.

Ward sued EMU in 2009, but lost in the lower courts. Ward and her attorneys, the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal organization that works to uphold the rights of religious college students and faculty, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District.


Julea Ward was dismissed from a counseling program at Eastern Michigan University because she refused to counsel a gay student.

Photo courtesy of ADF

EMU has said Ward was dismissed for violating the code of ethics of the American Counseling Association.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February supporting what it said was EMU’s right to require Ward, who was training to become a school counselor, to follow curricular requirements, including not discriminating against potential clients.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette earlier this year released a statement supporting Ward.



Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

If one of the curricular requirements really does state that a person participating in the program can not discriminate against a potential client Ms. Ward is in the wrong. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines discriminate as: "to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit". If the student in question felt distressed enough to seek out counseling one must believe they merited the service. By refusing to provide the service based upon anything other than merit (in this case the personal beliefs of the service provider) this refusal was, by definition, discrimination. The fact that the student in need of services received them from another source does not excuse Ms. Ward's behavior because that student was originally a potential client of Ms. Ward's.

Will Warner

Thu, Oct 6, 2011 : 3:47 a.m.

I fear a world in which there is no room for personal conscience. I heard a candidate for the presidency of NOW say that a person had no right to be a surgical nurse if she would rather not assist in an abortion. She should find another job. It scared the begeezus out of me.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 8:38 p.m.

I just don't understand why people have such an issue with the gay and lesbian population. They are like anyone else: they want to find a partner to live a full life with. I really don't think that is too much to ask for and I am not sure why so many people are opposed to it. I was raised as a strict Christian and I don't remember EVER reading Jesus or God saying anything about homosexuality. I personally think Ms. Ward should be reconsidering her religious belief, if her religion is promoting discrimination towards another group. I think she is using religion to disguise her homophobia.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

What never makes sense to me when the religion defense is invoked is how that enables one to act against Christian values of compassion and tolerance. Nope, shifts right to intolerance and revulsion. I'm pretty sure Jesus is crying right now.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

We've gotten to the point where one's religious beliefs, personal preferences and/or dislikes supercede the professional obligations professionals take on when they commit to their profession be it nursing, teaching, counseling, pharmacy, physician, etc. To with hold services from someone in need under these circumstances should be illegal and in some of the professions it is certainly against the tenets of practice. Being so judgemental about the human experience precludes being able to be effective in helping anyone other than those who comply with one's own personal belief system. I find it reprehensible that anyone has the gaul to refuse providing services based upon personal preferences when one has committed to fulfilling the role and responsibilities of their chosen profession. If legal action is required, so be it.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 9:22 p.m.

In the counseling center at EMU, should each office be labeled with which minority the counselor chooses not to see? A councilor needs to have empathy for all people coming to see them, not just the ones that uphold their own set of beliefs. Sorry time for a new career choice.

Jon Saalberg

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

"Ward said homosexuality was against her religious beliefs." What an odd thing to say. That would be like saying heterosexuality is against one's religious beliefs. Is it apparently OK to be discriminatory if you are in the majority and not the minority, at least according to Ward's supporters. I would question Ward's fitness to do any job if she is going to use the bible to tell her how to think instead of using common sense.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

Ah yes, more attention for the woman who thinks she's more important than the entire field of psychology. Maybe she should try astrology instead. Seems more in tune with her level of cognitive ability.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:31 p.m.

How would Ms Ward feel about someone who refused her council based on her skin color.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

Did she think only people she approved of deserved counseling? I don't know where she intended to counsel after her graduation but it probably would have been an issue regardless. Many schools have had cut backs and only have one or two counsels for their students. Isn't it like 10% of the population admitting they are gay? Even if she had intended to counsel at a religious institution certainly homosexuals struggling with their beliefs and self would have needed help. Thank God they won't be getting it from her.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

It's ironic that many of the folks commenting here are slamming Ms. Ward for her beliefs interfering with her job. But in the case of a Muslim practicing individual refusing to remove their head garments (even though it's a job requirement) these same folks would praise this individual for standing for their beliefs. Watch, this comment will be deleted...


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

Okay let's be clear: this woman is saying that the Christian religion opposes gays, which is not true. She had decided to interpret the Christian faith in her own way to justify not providing service to someone. That is example is very different than asking someone to change their clothing.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

"To answer your question, djacks, if your mother was on duty and your friend's girlfriend was assigned to her for emergency care, yes, she should be fired for refusing treatment. If you want to take the field of medicine seriously, you have to recognize that emergency care means care *now*, not at your convenience and not at your whim." Not emergency care. Intensive Care, hens the ICU. What about when there are others involved that are just as capable? Everybody seems to be looking at this as the gay individual was just turned out on the street, which according to the case, they were not. We don't know what the circumstances would have been if she had been the only individual available to console this individual. Maybe circumstances would have been different, but you can't assume they wouldn't have been. Now Macrabe Sunset, according to you, an emergency health care individual should be responsible for said patient even if it is a friend, family member, son daughter, mother, father, even though they are so emotionally attached it may cloud their judgement and could negatively impact their lives, and even if there are others just as capable around (that by the way have no emotional connection to the patient)?

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

To answer your question, djacks, if your mother was on duty and your friend's girlfriend was assigned to her for emergency care, yes, she should be fired for refusing treatment. If you want to take the field of medicine seriously, you have to recognize that emergency care means care *now*, not at your convenience and not at your whim. As for the head scarf requirement, that's something completely different.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:48 p.m.

Your mother was, in fact, following an ethical standard of her profession by not being the treating clinician for a close friend or family member. (I don't know whether that's a formal standard for nurses, but it's at least an informal one. Ask.) I think Ward deserved what she got. I also think that a Muslim who insisted on wearing a head garment in a situation where it actually interfered with their work would deserve what they got too.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

"Let me rephrase. This is about refusing to follow a set of standardized institutional guidelines, in favor of imposing ones personal beliefs into the carriculum." Okay, so here is a scenario. My mother has been an ICU nurse for 30 years. A couple years back, friend of mines girlfriend who had been seriously injured in a car wreck, had been sent to my mothers unit. I asked my mother as a favor (since she is a great nurse and she knows my friend) if she could get herself assigned to treat my friends girlfriend. she kindly declined, do to her belief of not being able to make the best judgements for the patient, and the possibility of having a biased attitude along with the possibility of treating someone whom she may have an emotional attachment to. She said she would make sure my friends girlfriend received very good treatment, albeit not from her. Granted, it was not a religious belief, but it was a belief that may impact someone else. Based on your guidelines, this scenario fits. So, should my Mother have been fired?

Atticus F.

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

Let me rephrase. This is about refusing to follow a set of standardized institutional guidelines, in favor of imposing ones personal beliefs into the carriculum.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

The person seeking treatment is not the issue. Also, by the way that individual was not denied treatment. She referred that individual to another counselor (read the article). The issue is about duties that interfere with her beliefs. My comment was pointing out the hypocrisy of the folks posting comments.

Atticus F.

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

In what way does wearing a religous garment interfere with another persons right to seek treatment? This is about the rights of a patient to recieve treatment/counseling without having to conform to the religous beliefs of another.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

Julea Ward chose to study for a profession that has a code of ethics. If she's unwilling to abide by them, why should Eastern waste a spot in a class on her? The APA doesn't define homosexuality as a mental disorder. Her personal ethics aren't the point. It's not about you, Julea: it's about your patient. If you don't know that, you don't have any business in health care.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

No shoes, no shirt, no service. Why should she be made to do something she does not agree with if others can refuse service with in which they do not agree with? I see a lot of hypocrites on this board are live and well.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

No shoes, no shirt, no services is a policy created by business owners, but a regulation most likely from OSHA or consumer safety.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

Since about 1990 EMU has been about appeasment to special interests, not a full diversity mission with numerous examples (too many to mention.) From what i have read there are a series of protocols used when conflicts arise. Not everyone can counsel everyone and as such, referral protocals exist. Conflicts happens and conflicts of interest are to be avoided in most circles. Take out the fact the conflict was religious in nature and look at the bigger picture. It seems she followed the protocols and the person in need of a counselor, found one. I think EMU over reacted and was trying to be a little bit to PC -- my take is eventually, since she followed the protocols, she will win the case. And EMU will still claim it did the right thing because, well, EMU is a college campus and that is how things are done on campuses acrosss the county.

Dog Guy

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

Ann Arbor's herd of independent thinkers is unanimously committed to only diversity befriended by the ACLU (Anti-Christian Litigation Union). Apparently, Miss Ward's religion is not part of the liberal coalition and she is thus barred from any tax-funded education or employment or status. The Ann Arbor outcry is not due to its bigotry so much as to its entitled greed for tax dollars. (I am sure that there is also a revulsion that she is not acting like a stereotypically "good" minority should act.)


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

I'm curious... how is it, Dog Guy, that you are unaware that the ACLU also defends the rights of Christians to practice their faih? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

I'm does a stereotypically &quot;good&quot; minorty act?

John Hritz

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

A few facts. Ward was a student. A student who was very near to completing her program, but still a student. When she brought forward her concern, she was advised by her supervisor that she could refer her client. Only after that was she was told she would be subject to an academic review. There was no warning that her actions could result in her dismissal. At no point was the client denied care or counseled according to Ward's beliefs in contravention of established practice. I don't agree with her views, but I do think she was treated unfairly. Further, professionals choose not to provide service to clients for many and various reasons including conflict of interest, case load, lack of expertise, etc.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 8:15 p.m.

Matt - I agree you again. Very well said.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

Unfonrtunately for your argument, John, this is not as simple as you paint is. Especially given the fact that Ms. Ward has lost on every level in the process so far. Secondly, using ones own personal moral or religious beliefs is NOT in any way an accepted practice in the professional counseling field. If you'd like I can quote you any of a number of professional organizations codes of conduct that specifically state that such behavior on the part of the therapist IS NOT acceptable Thirdly, your stated reasons for a therapist declining to provide service to a client (case load, conflict of interest, lack of expertise) have nothing whatsoever to do with morals or religious choice. If you want to support Ms. Ward, feel free. But please, at least be honest and sensible about why you are supporting her, because the reasons you give are nonsensical.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

She was trying to complete her program but unwilling to do what it required because her religious beliefs. Why did she choose to go in to this type of program if she was not willing to work with the general public?? She needs to rethink how she wants to spend the rest of her career - find another program that doesn't involve working with other human beings that have their own religions and beliefs. No one was asking her to change her religion or her views - she was there to do a job. She refused.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.



Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 4:51 p.m.

Our AG couldn't find a law book if it was on his desk. He'd need to check with his political party to get their interpretation first. He should be voted out - this is what we get for following tea party dogma.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

I salute Jolea Ward for standing up for her principles. A counselor and a client represent a professional relationship of trust and confidence. In this case it it not a protected characteristic such as race or religion that Ms. Ward finds objectionable with the client - it is behavior that she may find is inappropriate or violative of her religious beliefs. Her religious beliefs should be considered and the act of referring the client to another counselor appears reasonable. I thank the Attorney General for his support of Ms. Ward.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

Attorney General is a Republican and also does not support equal rights for gays. Matt - I completed this master's program at EMU and it is not for social work. This program is design for students to become accredited to counselor either college or primary school level education. If she intended on EVER being a public school counselor, she would NOT be able to turn away gay students. There is enough bullying in a school for gay and lesbian students, the last thing these kids need is another un-sympathetic useless counselors.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 12:40 p.m.

You apparantly didn't read the last line of my post. These ethical statements are but 2 of a great many. Also, the civil rights acts you cite do not establish professional ethics for any organization. That is up to the individual organization. Both the NASW and the APA, among a great many other professional organizations, have the same or very similar ethical standards and are detailed in their organizational statements and policies.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

Matt Cooper: The APA does not apply to social workers as it is a separate profession from psychology. I see no &quot;self-interest&quot; in Ms. Ward's conduct. Homosexuality is not a protected characteristic under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act nor under federal civil rights legislation - and it should not be.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

From the NASW Code Of Ethics: Value: Service Ethical Principle: Social workers' primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems. Social workers elevate service to others above self­interest. From the American Psychological Association: 3.01 Unfair Discrimination In their work-related activities, psychologists do not engage in unfair discrimination based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or any basis proscribed by law. These are but two of many professional codes of conduct, and none of them, not one, says it's okay to refuse treatment on the basis of the clients sexual orientation. Try again, R.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 4:48 p.m.

Why do so many people with &quot;strong religious beliefs&quot; act so little like the gods and prophets they worship?


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

I agree and find it quite curious that so many people with strong religious convictions are among the most judgmental and hateful. I don't believe this is what Christianity teaches them, in fact it teaches the opposite. Jesus would NOT be proud. That being said I think her biggest mistake was making an issue of the person's sexuality. Was she required to state her reason for refusal of treatment? If not then she caused the problem herself. I don't agree with any form of discrimination but if you're so hateful to do so at least don't admit that's what you're doing. Show a little tact and class and just state that it's a conflict of interest and leave it at that.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

its one thing to practice your belief's. its quite another to use a public platform to push those beliefs on others. further, it is a requirement for your chosen course of study, one you volunarily signed up for, to behave in a professional manner and follow proceedures which you aren't able to do. Using your religion as a shield against the standards of your chosen profession. No way should you get a liscense and no way should EMU put their stamp on your limited abilities in your chosen field. I support the EMU program and its processes and, frankly, them giving you the boot.


Thu, Oct 6, 2011 : 3:36 a.m.

I read the text at every link you provided, and not once did I see a single quote where Barack Obama claimed it was OK to do anything to a 9-month old fetus. The closest you have their is a site that quotes the book _The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality_ by Jerome Corsi, which is a right-wing hit job. &quot;Obama Nation&quot; / Abomination...get it? Yes, he defends the right of women to choose, as do I, as do a majority of Americans.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 4:37 p.m.

Here you go... I dont know why I am doing this....You can google it yourself <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Just three. Stop wasting my time.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 10:39 p.m.

When the facts don't back you up, why not throw dust up into the air? Better yet, why not make it up? I challenge you to provide a citation as to when President Obama every supported aborting a nine-month old fetus. It never happened.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

and this has what do to with Julea Ward willing incompetence to learn and practice a profession in accordance with the requirements of the profession?


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:33 p.m.

Jhonny, when you argue, you need to know what you're talking about. 1. There is no medical procedure defined as a &quot;partial-birth abortion&quot;. That's a political term. What you're talking about is an intact D&amp;X. 2. Abortion past viability (i.e., approximately 24 weeks LMP) can be and is banned by state governments, with a life and health exception. 3. Doctors, and health care providers in general, have conscience clauses on a state-by-state basis and can decline procedures IF they ensure that patients can access the care they seek elsewhere. You can't just turf your patient. Want to try again, maybe with facts this time?


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

Our dear President believes that is ok to stick a pair of scissors in the back of a 9 month old fetus and have its brains sucked out (partial birth abortion). If I was a Doctor I could not perform the inhuman/evil procedure. But as a Doctor I would be required to do so??


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

Wow, really Miz. Ward? I think you need to go home and rethink your life and priorities. You've probably helped loads of gay people in your life and haven't even noticed! I'm glad EMU kicked you out. They don't need you. If you hold so much to your &quot;religious&quot; beliefs, be a counselor at a religious college. Oh, wait, maybe not. There are probably more gay people there. I think you just need to get over it. You are going to come across many people with different sets of beliefs and values in your life time. You can't just ignore all of them. And remember, Judge not least you be judged! Or something there of.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

Really? Its against her religion? If you practice any religion you live your life by those religious rules - It doesn't mean that anyone you come in contact with has to live the way you choose to live. Give me a break! SHe should be fired - she was hired to counsel not to impose her beliefs on anyone she comes in to contact with. I'm sure there are many qualified individuals that would be happy to have the job. Ms. Judgemental should go find some job that does not involve any interaction with other human beings.

Bertha Venation

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.


Atticus F.

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

When your religous beliefs interfere with your obligations to do your job, then it's time to find a new job.

Atticus F.

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

cinnibar, yes they probably would be required to cook what ever the restruant wanted them to. BTW we are not talking about restruants here...we're talking about the American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

If a Muslim wanted to be a chef would he be reqired to cook pork?

Matt Cooper

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:03 p.m.

The problem, Jhonny, is that if someone has a moral objection to abortions, they should not be working in an abortion clinic, and if they choose to do so they have no right to expect that clinic to stop giving abortions simply because that person as an individual has a problem with it. Ms. Ward has no right, regardless of her moral or religious convictions, to ask EMU to alter its curriculum for her (thereby saying it's okay to discriminate against gays) simply because she doesn't like that particular lifestyle. When she was accepted to the masters program at EMU she knew the conditions under which she would be practicing and learning her craft, and accepted those conditions without question. She has no right to ask EMU to alter those conditions and requirements or the stated curriculum the moment she is faced with something she disagrees with or is morally uncomfortable with. She needs to put on her big girl pants, get over it and either move on to a school that will allow her establish her own curricula, or finish her degree at EMU following the same conditions, codes of student conduct and established curriculum as every other student.

Atticus F.

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

jhonny, I dont know what the guidelines are for descriminating against someone who has had an abortion. But I know the guidelines that were followed here relate to descriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

What if is not a religious belief but you have a conscience against murdering and human being such as abortion.

Bertha Venation

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

Amen to that, my brother!!