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Posted on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

Bill named for EMU student dismissed for refusing to counsel gay client clears committee

By Cindy Heflin

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.

Thumbnail image for JuleaWard.jpg

Julea Ward at Eastern Michigan University.

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.

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.

Read the Holland Sentinel article.



Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 8:28 p.m.

So in the name of religious freedom, Julea Ward should have the right to foist her religion on others.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Fri, Mar 16, 2012 : 6:07 a.m.

she should not be dicateted to force others religion on her....


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

See, notfromhere...there IS more that unites us than divides us... : )

greg, too

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 6:02 a.m.

You missed the point...I don't wan't to unite or divide or anything else. I want the student to do her job, the job our tax dollars paid for. I'm sorry if her religious beliefs are in objection. If she believes that strongly, they are a good amount of parochial schools in the US where she can be among like minded people and she should leave the state schools to people without religious objection. She put herself in the position to have to deal with the masses. She should have to buck up and deal with it.

greg, too

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

If she wants to be in the field of counseling, she needs to counsel everyone. You cannot pick and choose.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

You must be displaying too much truthiness.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

I like the new format, but it keeps hiding my comments from me and giving me a msg. that I "submitted an abuse report" against them.

Stan Hyne

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

If I ran an auto mechanics school and had a student who refused to work on Fords, would I be wrong in telling him/her that they couldn't receive a certificate from my school that said they were a qualified auto mechanic ?


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

'cuz cars are people too, just like corporations.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

If Ms. Ward hoped to limit her practice and experience to Christian Counseling, she should have attended a Christian Counseling program. She had options. She chose to attend an institution that was not religiously based, and she understood the expectations of the program and the profession! The Code of Ethics for the professions of Counseling and Social Work prohibit discrimation. This proposed law would undermine the very foundation upon which the Code stands.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

Isn't this the same political party that wants to fight to keep Sharia Law out of this country? What are the Big differences between Sharia Law and Old Testament Law?


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

How many jobs will this new law create?


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

How about a Law promoting the stoning of harlots, divorcées and witches? We should also ban shrimp, God hates shrimp. It's right there in the same Book as gay hating...And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

If she wanted to decide between patients based on religion, she should have gone into the seminary. For those who claim that they would appreciate it if their counselor referred them to a person of similar religious persuasion to speak to about their issues; if that is a metric you judge your guidence by, you should be seeking out priests, not social workers.

david st. crystal

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

More evidence that homosexuality continues to be viewed as a disease, and members of the LGBT community remain an acceptable target for hate. We're all free to practice our own religions, but if mine prohibited treatment of African-Americans, Jews, and Muslims--instead declaring Aryans as the only ethnic group worthy of my treatment--would my case garner as much sympathy? On legal and philosophical grounds, it would be an identical situation, yet I'd be ruled a bigot and dismissed without incident. Ward wasn't expelled for her religious beliefs, but instead her stance on refusing to treat homosexuals. The justification for her beliefs, whether based on dubious convictions about the bible's mandates or superiority of some ethnic groups, is and should be irrelevant. As a university granted the responsibility to unleash social workers/counselors who can provide sound treatment, they aptly took steps to veto the career of a blatantly homophobic student. Imagine the damage Ward could do to a homosexual coming to grips with their sexuality, who is promptly refused treatment because they're somehow dirty or unholy. This is a concession to homophobia, and also ties the hands of institutions seeking to address appropriateness of a student's beliefs and behavior, instead moving to assessment of the underlying motives behind the discrimination. How we could validate any belief system that promotes racism and blunt prejudice is appalling.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

perfectly put. The problem is, the reason that bills like this are even brought up is because anything is justifiable, so long as religion is used to rationalize it.

greg, too

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 6:19 a.m.

Why would you enter a profession that requires you to talk to people you might not agree with? I see her point in that she is of a belief, as bigoted as it is, that doesn't believe in people living certain lifestyles. But, in defending her point in a court of law, is she not defending pretty much everything African Americans have fought against for the past century? Is she not as bigoted as the teachers, cooks, cab drivers, doctors, etc., in the 50's who said they would not work with non-whites?

greg, too

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Very true, BCAR, I 100% agree. But she refused service. She refused to offer her state paid for service to someone. If she was at a private school, then she has the ability to say no. But in her position, with the tax payers paying her bill, she has to do her job, no matter who she prays to. If she has a problem with it, then she needs to go to a parochial school.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.

There is a BIG difference in refusing service and saying that "hey, someone else can BETTER serve you."

Chaz H

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1 a.m.

Religion is the root of all that is evil in this world.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:24 a.m.

I think this is more about weakness, both mental and moral, and political gamesmanship than anything else.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:51 p.m.

What a pathetic lot we are, unable to separate our private, personal beliefs from our professional lives. Can't stop being self-absorbed and judgmental for even eight hours out of a day. Who cares what her religious beliefs are, or what the sexual orientation is of someone who wants counseling? A person's entire life is their sexuality now? She's not being asked to marry a gay person, or adopt a gay lifestyle, or even approve of a gay lifestyle; she's supposed to provide advice about making smart choices, dealing with depression, etc. The foundation of a good relationship is the same, regardless of the two people involved. Open communication, trust, honesty, sacrifice; those topics rise above her religion or someone else's sexual preferences. If she wasn't able to adhere to the standards of the program, she should have chosen another program. Why does the entire world, or the entire university in this case, have to bend to accommodate this selfish, bigoted and self-centered attitude?


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

YpsiVeteran - thanks for one of the best comments I've ever read in the "Comments" section of

greg, too

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 6:23 a.m.

I never, ever thought I would agree with YpsiVeteran....but he/she/it are spot on.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:21 a.m.

Not particularly usefull Pickford; what exactly is your point? An entitled mindset is a right the rest of the world must accommodate now? If this were about a male refusing to treat women, or a white person of either sex who felt that treating black single parents, or people who drink or some other such nonsense was against their religious teachings, this would be an entirely different situation, and that makes this situation wrong.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 12:42 a.m.

Hopefully it will be clear to you some day.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.

Good for her, I agree with hr and am glad to see people following their beliefs rather than caving to others.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

Just like the people of Germany did in the 20"s?


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:36 a.m.

My religion calls this statement of yours hate speech, and you should face the appropriate penalties. It's only right.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

There are places a counselor can work if they only want to serve "their own kind." They might work in a church or private practice. Serving in a pubic institution might require more tolerance.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

I don't know whether what she did was right or not. I just know that *I* wouldn't want to be counseled by her or anyone else who had a moral issue with me as a person. I do have to wonder though, what would Jesus have done in the same situation? I'm pretty sure he'd have put his personal feelings aside (if he hated gays, which he didn't) and counsel the person because that's the caring thing to do.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:54 p.m.

You're right, cinnabar. What she said was that she is unable to be objective and approach her job on an impersonal level, which should automatically preclude her successful completion of the program anyway. She can't meet the standards required for the program, so now she wants the standards changed to suit her inadequacies.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:35 p.m.

She never said she hates gay people.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

So if I refuse to do business with a Catholic because I'm atheist and don't like Catholics, and I then get fired, I can sue my employer?

Joe Kidd

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

I think your employer would rather fight a suit against you than a suit from the people you discriminated against. You would be foolish to put in the public arena that you don't like Catholics and openly discriminate against them.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

Yes you can. You'd lose, but sure, you can sue your employer in that situation.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

This is a really bad bill, but not because of the discrimination while IN school.... I worked for many years in University admissions to a doctoral psych program.... What will occur, instead, is that the selection process will take place BEFORE's very easy to get the answers you want with subtle interview questions that kids answer (or don't answer) when they are nervous and doing a grad school admission interview. This is bad bad bad legislation.

Joe Kidd

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

EMU really screwed up with this. If you do something dumb and won't compromise, sometimes someone else, a court or a legislature, will take it over and make the decision for you.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

Agreed. Settling this case by reinstatement or cash in exchange for a release with a confidentiality clause would have made this case and issue go away. Now, Julea Ward has become a cause celebre.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

I would hope that if I needed counseling in an area that related to my faith, an atheist counselor would refer me to someone who could work with me. Especially if that counselor had moral issues with Christianity or issues with Christians (and there are plenty who do!). I would see that as a professional, kind act.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1 p.m.

If you need counseling in an area that relates to your faith, go see a priest.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:29 p.m.

A key part of being a professional and working in a field like social work means that you attempt to be objective and put such considerations aside. The same holds true for other professional fields - doctors, nurses, attorneys, journalists, etc. You can't single out an entire group of people, whether based on race, sex, or sexual orientation, and say that you refuse to work with them.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

Northside, if a Muslim referred me to someone else so that I as a Christian could get better care, I'd appreciate !


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

The standards for EMU's grad program - and the profession of social work, in general - are intended to apply for everyone. Christian, atheist, Muslim, agnostic, it doesn't matter. A counselor cannot reject an entire category of people for treatment. That's what you sign up for when you enter a public institution's counseling program. It'll be interesting to see how conservative Christians react if this bill becomes law and it used by, say, a conservative Muslim. My guess is the "we're being oppressed" attitude shown now will fade if someone of another religion refuses to treat an entire group.

Joe Kidd

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

A good friend works in counseling told me that happens all the time, referrals for personal opinion conflicts are common.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

I hope that as a public school teacher, I too will be allowed to refuse to teach students who conflict with my personal religious views.

greg, too

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 6:36 a.m.

kbwhatvever..."As a teacher, your views of students' personal lives doesn't affect the subject matter." When was the last time you were in a classroom? I teach white, black, hispanic, asian, gay, straight, bi-sexual, etc., students all the time. It is impossible not to find someone who you might disagree with in some manner about something, but as a professional educator, you are required and trained to teach them what you are supposed to teach them, not refuse service and then sue when you are fired. If it was any other way, I think most teachers would quit on the spot. Stop speaking for us, we can speak just fine for ourselves.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:39 p.m.

Oh Kbombbilly - you are obviously not a teacher, otherwise you would know that teaching is not just about your subject matter. Teachers deal with issues that counselors and social workers deal with and it would be unfair to pick and choose whom to serve. I teach all students, all backgrounds, religions, points-of-view, lifestyles, and political views.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

As a teacher, your views of students' personal lives doesn't affect the subject matter. As a counselor, your views of the client's personal life very much affects the counseling. You can't recommend a client take certain actions that go against your ethics or morals and stay true to your convictions.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

Next we have bills allowing Doctors to not treat certain people they don't like. Oh I don't like this robber with the gunshot wound, so I will call another Doctor in who will treat them. Sorry, Julia, as a care giver you must take the good with the bad. That gay person is just as much of a human as you are, though you treat them like they are not.

Mike S

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 4 p.m.

Oh dear, my comment was removed, I suspect the absurdity was too subtle for the moderators. Allow me to re-post because I believe it's an appropriate analogy a little bit further down the slope of leaguebus' criticisms. This is it to the best of my recollection. "Maybe we should require gays to wear armbands with a pink triangle on them to identify them to those who require the utmost in religious freedom. What could go wrong?" I thought the "What could go wrong?" part would be enough to indicate that it was an absurdist statement extrapolated from what could happen following the path of allowing doctors to avoid treating people of different beliefs and lifestyles. Perhaps this violated "Using tragedies to make a political point"? Was it off-topic to extrapolate from codifying protection for religious discrimination into law to invoke Godwin's Law? Maybe I should have said "Takeis" instead of "gays". Is this comment analyzing how we discuss this topic and trying to understand the guidelines off-topic in itself?


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

I cite Deuteronomy 22:13-21 and refuse to counsel women who aren't virgins.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

Your mother would be so proud.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

but it is alright for Christian people to discriminatie against others in the name of Christian religious beliefs. It would be better for to go to a Christian University where discriminating against non-Christians is acceptable..


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

GREAT reply Kbombbilly... says it all perfectly, now just brace for the beating you'll take from the internet lib ninjas.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

She most assuredly did she refused to console someone because they where gay and sighted her religous belief as the right to do so.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

No, it's not alright for a Christian to discriminate against others. How is this discrimination? She recognized her own inability to adequately care for someone because of her own views. By trying to refer the client to another counselor, she actually ensured that the client would get the best care possible. She didn't refuse care, she didn't turn the client away from counseling. What she did is professional. You would expect a judge to recuse him/herself if his/her personal views or background got in the way of a court case - why is this any different? She didn't discriminate. She didn't say the client was a bad person, she didn't prevent counseling, she didn't act hatefully - in fact, she acted out of care and professionalism.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

Good for her, and good for the people she may, or may not counsel.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

People accusing her of being 5,4,3,2


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

I applaud the members of the Michigan House for honoring Julea Ward for her courageous stand in support of her right to exercise and express her religious beliefs under the Free Speech Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. She deserves recognition. Back when James Madison drafted the U.S. Constitution, the constitutional convention delegates told him to go back and add further rights for citizens and the Bill of Rights was created that became the cornerstone of our democracy. Attorney General Bill Schuette can be credited for help rescuing this case from defeat by his office's fervent support of Ms. ward's position as well as the Alliance Defense Fund diligent advocacy. God bless Julea Ward, a heroine.