Jeremy Tedesco

Alliance Defending Freedom recently settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of Julea Ward, a former graduate student at Eastern Michigan University who was expelled from her counseling program after refusing to violate her religious beliefs. Media reports have unfortunately suggested that Julea’s lawsuit involved her refusal to counsel a client because he identified as gay: this is untrue.

Instead, her case involved her religious objection to being forced to provide counseling about sexual relationships outside of marriage, an objection which applies equally to homosexual and heterosexual clients.

Her objection is to providing counseling on certain topics, not to counseling any particular group.

So the claim that Julea refused to see clients who identified as gay is patently false.

The actual facts are that Julea faced a values conflict when a potential client sought counseling about a homosexual relationship. Recognizing the likely values conflict with the client, she asked her professor whether she should refer him before any meeting took place and was instructed to do so. But the University charged Julea with “imposing values” on the potential client, and disobeying ethical rules that apply to counselors. It then expelled her from the program, even though she was a stellar student who was carrying a 3.91 GPA.

Julea’s referral request was not a renegade act. Indeed, the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, which the University requires students to follow, broadly allows for referrals anytime a counselor determines an “inability to be of professional assistance,” and also endorses referrals where a counselor’s personal beliefs prevent her from providing end-of-life counseling.

Other permissible referrals would include an atheist counselor referring a Christian client seeking help with a crisis of faith, and a pro-abortion counselor referring a pregnant client who wants to keep her baby. These and many other values-based referrals (including the one Julea inquired about) are permissible precisely because they are in the best interests of the client.

Despite all this, the University targeted Julea for punishment because it disagreed with her religious beliefs. But public universities are for everyone, not just those who follow politically correct trends.

Jeremy Tedesco

Jeremy Tedesco is senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.