Beliefnet News

(RNS) A conservative legal group has filed suit against Eastern Michigan University on behalf of a graduate student who claims she was dismissed from counseling studies for her religious beliefs regarding homosexuality.
The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court in Detroit by the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, a conservative public interest group that focuses on religious freedom.
It alleges that EMU violated the civil rights of Julea Ward, a graduate student in school counseling, by dismissing her from the program because she would not affirm homosexual behavior in the context of counseling, as specified in university policy.
EMU’s handbook for students in the counseling program mandates that they adhere to American Counseling Association standards, which require counselors to not engage in discrimination based on, among other things, sexual orientation.
When Ward was asked to counsel a client wishing to discuss a homosexual relationship, Ward objected and followed her supervisor’s instructions by referring the client to another counselor, said Jeremy Tedesco, an Arizona-based attorney working on the case.
Although she had been instructed to refer clients when faced with an ethical dilemma, Ward was still brought up on disciplinary charges, Tedesco said. Dismissal proceedings began in January, and in March she was dismissed from the counseling program. She lost an appeal to the dean of the school of education.
Pam Young, an EMU spokeswoman, released a statement that said the university doesn’t comment about pending litigation, but that EMU is “a diverse campus with a strong commitment not to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”
The lawsuit says that Ward is “a Christian who derives her beliefs and moral values from the Bible.”
“Based on her sincerely held religious beliefs, Ms. Ward believes that homosexual behavior is immoral sexual conduct, and cannot affirm or validate that behavior or otherwise use her counseling skills and abilities to facilitate homosexual behavior, without violating her sincere religious beliefs,” the suit states.
Ward was four requirements away from graduating with a master’s degree and has a 3.91 GPA, the suit says. The lawsuit is seeking Ward’s reinstatement into the counseling program and compensatory damages.
By Amanda Hamon
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