DETROIT — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom filed a lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University Thursday after school officials dismissed a student from the school’s counseling program for not affirming homosexual behavior as morally acceptable. The school dismissed Julea Ward from the program because she would not agree prior to a counseling session to affirm a client’s homosexual behavior and would not retract her stance in subsequent disciplinary proceedings.
"Christian students shouldn’t be penalized for holding to their beliefs," said ADF Senior Counsel David French. "When a public university has a prerequisite of affirming homosexual behavior as morally good in order to obtain a degree, the school is stepping over the legal line. Julea did the responsible thing and followed her supervising professor’s advice to have the client referred to a counselor who did not have a conscience issue with the very matter to be discussed in counseling. She would have gladly counseled the client if the subject had been nearly any other matter."
EMU requires students in its program to affirm or validate homosexual behavior within the context of a counseling relationship and prohibits students from advising clients that they can change their homosexual behavior. Ward has never addressed homosexual behavior in any form during counseling sessions with clients.
EMU initiated its disciplinary process against Ward and informed her that the only way she could stay in the graduate school counseling program would be if she agreed to undergo a "remediation" program. Its purpose would be to help Ward "see the error of her ways" and change her "belief system" as it relates to counseling about homosexual relationships, conforming her beliefs to be consistent with the university’s views. When Ward did not agree with the conditions, she was given the options of either voluntarily leaving the program or asking for a formal review hearing.
Ward chose the hearing, during which EMU faculty denigrated her Christian views and asked several inappropriate and intrusive questions about her religious beliefs. The hearing committee dismissed her from the counseling program on March 12. Ward appealed the decision to the dean of the College of Education, who upheld the dismissal on March 26.
"Julea has a constitutional right not to be compelled to speak a message she disagrees with. She acted as a professional counselor should--with great concern both for her beliefs and the client," ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco explained. "The two are not incompatible, but EMU’s policies are incompatible with the Constitution."
ADF-allied attorney Steven Jentzen of Ypsilanti is serving as local counsel in the case.
- Complaint in Ward v. Eastern Michigan University filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities. ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.