Eastern Michigan University expelled Julea Ward, a student in the counseling program, for refusing to counsel homosexuals.
According to Ward’s attorneys, “The university told her she would be allowed to stay in the program if she went through a ‘remediation’ program so that she could “see the error of her ways and change her belief system about homosexuality,” according to a story on the Fox News website today.
Miss Ward filed suit against the university claiming it was wrong for expelling her because of her religious beliefs. Miss Ward believes, as a Christian, that homosexuality is “morally wrong,” according to the story. U.S. district Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed the suit.
EMU spokesman Walter Kraft said in a written statement. “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.”
In his 48-page opinion, according to the story, Judge Steeh said the university had a rational basis for adopting the ACA Code of Ethics.
“. . .the university had a rational basis for requiring students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values,” he wrote in a part of his ruling posted by The Detroit News. “In the case of Ms. Ward, the university determined that she would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs – including homosexual relationships.”
The good, the bad and the ugly
This is one of those mixed bag stories with both bad and not-so-bad outcomes. My conservative friends reading this might think I’ve abandoned my conservative or moral beliefs here, but I haven’t. I urge you all to read on. I agree with the judge that the school had a right to dismiss Miss Ward for not complying with its educational requirements for a counseling degree. The student probably shouldn’t attend Eastern Michigan. Her attitude is judgmental and opposed to what Jesus taught about love and acceptance in the Bible.
I once went to church with an attorney who refused to take divorce cases or counsel couples contemplating divorce. He, like Miss Ward, had strong Christian, moral convictions. He believed divorce was a sin and would have no part in divorce cases in his practice. But this attorney had a handful of courses in law school that contained curricula on divorce law, parental custody law, adultery, alimony, child support, division of property law and more. He didn’t refuse to take the courses because he didn’t believe in the foundation for the laws: divorce. He took the courses, passed the bar, and entered into his practice. But he will not touch any divorce cases, and his convictions remain. So does his influence as a Christian with deeply rooted moral convictions about divorce. One result of his convictions has been his positive influence. He has participated in counseling some couples who were contemplating divorce and changed their minds after hearing his convictions and beliefs about divorce.
To me it’s sad that Miss Ward threw down a gauntlet about her convictions while still in school taking courses. I realize some of her courses may have placed, or may place, her in practical academic situations where counsel with homosexuals was necessary. Would she risk her education and her future as a counselor because of her beliefs? I don’t know what I would do in such a situation.
I don’t disagree with her decision. In fact, I applaud her for living out her convictions. I have to wonder, though, if she might now miss opportunities to be a positive influence in the lives of those who have chosen a lifestyle that God calls an “abomination.” Not by proselytizing her student homosexual counselees, or convincing them to leave that lifestyle, but by living a life, “worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:1b and 2.
Prayerfully now, Miss Ward can continue her education at a private Christian school, or a school where her moral convictions won’t become fodder for discrimination based on religious beliefs. Maybe someone will come along side of her and foot the bill for completing her counseling education.
Miss Ward’s attorney said, and I agree, this case may set a dangerous precedent. Nothing like this has ever happened before. The decision may open the door for other publicly funded institutions to punish, restrict or expel students based on students’ moral values and their convictions to live by those values.
I also disagree sharply with the university’s reason for offering to remediate Miss Ward, so she could “see the error of her ways and change her belief system about homosexuality.” The university is talking out of both sides of its mouth and that is deplorable. On one hand the university kicked Miss Ward to the curb because she believed one way. But it would allow her to stay if she would agree to believe that its belief was correct and hers was incorrect. That is dichotomous.
I thought the idea of a university was to present students with a information from different perspectives and encourage the student to learn and believe what they wanted and leave the rest. That appears wrong at Eastern Michigan.
I find two things wrong with the university’s stand. In the first place the university has no right to dictate, nor can it control, what a person believes or doesn’t believe. Secondly, the belief that homosexuality is somehow acceptable is absolutely wrong. The Bible clearly explains how God created man and woman and what He created them for. He also declared homosexuality an abomination. He has the last word, regardless of what Eastern Michigan or any university claims.
God will reward Miss Ward’s faithfulness. God led her to this university experience to teach her something about Himself and about her. He will show that to her if she remains faithful to her convictions.