EMU student to appeal federal court ruling
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys are planning to appeal the dismissal of the case involving a former master’s student in Eastern Michigan University’s counseling program.
Julea Ward’s lawsuit was dismissed Monday by U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh after he ruled in favor of university and granted it a summary judgement.
In a release, Walter Kraft,vice president for communications at EMU,said the university is pleased with the judgment.
“We are pleased that the court has upheld our position in this matter,” Kraft said. “Julea Ward was not discriminated against because of her religion. To the contrary, Eastern Michigan is deeply committed to the education of our students and welcomes individuals from diverse backgrounds into our community.”
Ward said she was dismissed from the program after one of client’s sought counseling about a homosexual relationship and Ward decided she could not counsel the individual because of her religious beliefs.
In a press release, ADF Senior Counsel David French said Christian students shouldn’t be expelled for “holding to and abiding by their beliefs.”
He argued on behalf of Ward before the U.S. District Court June 24.
“To reach its decision, the court had to do something that’s never been done in federal court- uphold an extremely broad and vague university speech code,” French said.
French believes Ward abided by the guidelines and requirements of the program.
“Julea merely followed her supervising professor’s advice by referring a potential client to a counselor who had no conscience issue with the particular matter to be discussed,” he said. “She would have gladly counseled the client herself had the topic focused on any other matter. We trust the 6th Circuit will understand the constitutional issues involved in this case.”
Monday, Steeh said EMU had a “rational basis” for implementing the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics into its counseling program and requiring students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values.
According to court documents,the judge said by refusing to counsel because of her own personal value system, Ward failed to complete an academic requirement of the program.
Monday’s decision upheld EMU’s right to establish the curricular requirements of its counseling program, and the Ethical Standards of the American School Counselor Association.
Kraft said, “As one of the premiere teacher-training institutions in the United States, Eastern Michigan University takes seriously our Constitutional mission to ensure that every student who graduates from our academic programs meets the applicable curricular and regulatory requirements.”