EMU resolves case of Julea Ward, former student kicked out of program for declining to counsel gay client
The case of a former Eastern Michigan University student kicked out of a counseling program after declining to counsel a gay client has reached a settlement, according to university officials.
The former graduate student Julea Ward will be given a $75,000 settlement from the university.
Ward was kicked out of the university's counseling program after she refused to affirm a gay client’s relationship during a practicum. Ward said she believes homosexuality is immoral and being gay is a choice and she could not in good conscience counsel the client.
EMU vice president for communications Walter Kraft said in a statement EMU decided to resolve the litigation rather than continue to spend money on a costly trial.
"The university’s insurance company, M.U.S.I.C., Michigan Universities Self-Insurance Corporation, will pay the cost of the settlement," Kraft said.
The end of the case marks a nearly four-year battle between Ward and the university. Ward was a student in the university's graduate school counseling program, where she was training to become a counselor in the K-12 school system.
Ward's legal counsel, Jeremy Tedesco, said he is pleased and feels that Ward's constitutionally protected rights have been "vindicated."
"Public universities shouldn’t force students to violate their religious beliefs to get a degree. The Sixth Circuit rightly understood this and ruled appropriately, so the university has done the right thing in settling this case," Tedesco said.
The Alliance Defense Fund filed suit against EMU in April of 2009. The lawsuit sought to stop the university from enforcing its policies that prohibit discrimination and require students in its counseling program to counsel students in conformance with the code of ethics of the American Counseling Association.
Kraft said the resolution of the lawsuit will leave the university's policies, programs and curricular requirements intact.
"The faculty retains its right to establish, in its learned judgment, the curriculum and program requirements for the counseling program at Eastern Michigan University," Kraft said.
The university declined to further comment on the matter.