Julea Ward, an Eastern Michigan University (EMU) Student who was reportedly expelled from a counseling program because of her views on gay and lesbian lifestyles, has won a key legal victory.
As the Detroit Free Press is reporting, Ward's defense team hailed the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to allow their client to argue her religious discrimination suit against EMU before a Detroit-based federal jury.
"Public universities shouldn’t force students to violate their religious beliefs to get a degree," Jeremy Tedesco, the Alliance Defense Fund lawyer who argued the case, told the Free Press. "Rather than allow Julea to refer a potential client to another qualified counselor -- a common, professional practice to best serve clients -- EMU attacked and questioned Julea’s religious beliefs and ultimately expelled her from the program because of them."
Ward had been enrolled in a masters' counseling program when she asked her superiors to refer a gay client to someone else, the Associated Press reported. She claims she told professors that her Christian faith prohibited her from affirming homosexual behavior, and was expelled shortly thereafter despite being just a few classes short of her degree.
In a YouTube video for the Alliance Defense Fund describing her case, Ward said, "I had never refused to counsel homosexuals, I had simply refused to affirm their lifestyle." After requesting a formal review hearing, Ward noted, "I was met with more intolerance...unanimously, they decided to expel me from the program."
Meanwhile, EMU Vice President for Communications Walter Kraft said the case "has never been about religion or religious discrimination. It is not about homosexuality or sexual orientation. This case is about what is in the best interest of a person who is in need of counseling, and following the curricular requirements of our highly respected and nationally accredited counseling program, which adheres to the Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association and the Ethical Standards of the American School Counselor Association. Those Ethical Standards require that counselors are not to allow their personal values to intrude into their professional work."