Friday, June 29, 2012

Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act

The Michigan House has passed a bill named after an Eastern Michigan University (EMU) student who was kicked out of the school's counseling program because of her faith.

In 2009, Julea Ward (pictured above) was expelled from the university's counseling program because of her Christian beliefs, particularly against homosexuality. But earlier this year, the Sixth U.S. Circuit of Appeals sided with the student, ruling that "a reasonable jury would conclude that Ward's professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith ...." That opinion reversed an earlier district court decision in favor of the university.

Now, the "Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act" has been proposed and approved by the House. It prohibits religious discrimination against college students studying counseling, social work and psychology. Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Jeremy Tedesco is defending Ward in her lawsuit against EMU.

"We certainly welcome their efforts to protect the rights of their citizens," he comments. "Public universities like Eastern Michigan University shouldn't be able to require students to give up or abandon their religious beliefs as a condition of getting a degree."

Ward was ousted from the program after she was permitted to refer a homosexual client to another counselor. She was unwilling to violate her religious beliefs to affirm that sexual orientation.

"If, when you're a counselor, there's a values conflict with your goal or objective of your counseling, it could negatively impair the outcome of the relationship and of the counseling," Tedesco offers. "So the best thing for the client in that situation is to move the client on to a counselor who doesn't have the values conflict."

The bill is now headed for the state Senate for consideration.

H/T to Rick Lobs

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