03/16/2011 05:41 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Christian Exceptionalism

Michigan's attorney general, who campaigned on not firing that creepy assistant attorney general who was homophobicly/homosexually stalking a gay college student because "when you're not on the government job, you ought to be able to express your opinion," has filed a brief to support a student who's suing her university because they won't graduate her if she's homophobic because they say it means she'll suck at her job but she says it's her right because she Christian.

I've posted about Julea Ward before, who wants to be a high school counselor. While I don't have any trouble saying that a homophobe would automatically make someone a bad high school counselor, since who knows what fucked up shit they'll be telling LGBT students, the school let her state her views in class.

It wasn't until she refused to help a gay person during a practicum at the university, canceling an appointment two hours before when she read that the client was gay, that the school took disciplinary action against her. It turns out that refusing to help clients because of moral disapproval violates several professional standards the American Counseling Association has set up. Ward, since her homophobia is Christian which makes it inherently good, wants a special exception to the rules.

A federal judge already ruled that universities are allowed to require their students to follow the standards set up by professional boards. The AG's brief was filed in the appeal, since apparently they're taking this case all the way to the Supreme Court (can't the conservative Christians find a better test case?).

It's interesting the way things have changed here. It wasn't too long ago where an openly gay graduate student in a mental health field would have been asked to change their sexuality in order to conform to the program, since homosexuality was considered a mental illness.

I read Richard Isay's Being Gay a few years ago (I don't have it with me so I can't quote it), which was a half-psychoanalytic/half-autobiographical text dealing with both his own coming out and, later, how he dealt with gay patients. A good deal of the book is devoted to the lengths he went to to seem straight since that was what he was told he needed to be in order to be a psychoanalyst. In fact, pursuing that career path drove him further and further into the closet.

While he was a psychoanalyst and not a high school counselor, I don't think that there were many high schools back in the early-70's that would have been willing to hire a gay counselor, and there would have been quite a few graduate schools unwilling to graduate a student who was openly gay. Heck, even today there are graduate school deans that tell their students not to come out on the job if they work with kids. We haven't come that far.

So this school is taking a good stand, but I wonder how many other graduate schools out there aren't. Surely Ward isn't the only counseling student who doesn't like gay people, but perhaps she was the most honest. I'd expect the other to just get through graduate school, go to work in a high school, and instead of referring gay students away like Ward says she would do (yeah... only the gay high school students willing to make a stink about the things she tells them about sexuality, which won't be all of them), try to shame them into being straight.

Again, the fact that Ward blames her beliefs on orthodox Christianity (Russian Orthodox? Greek Orthodox? Latvian Orthodox? Something tells me lots of conservative Christians don't even know how their religion is itself organized) is besides the point. This isn't high school where you can just blame your parents to get out of going to that party you aren't comfortable with but your friends want you to go to; there are plenty of adult Christians who don't have a problem with gay people and Ward can take responsibility for her own beliefs.