The ‘Julea Ward Is a Christian Bigot’ Act Passes in Michigan

Remember Julea Ward?

Julea Ward

She was the graduate student in counseling at Eastern Michigan University who refused to treat a suicidal gay student because her Christianity prevented her from “helping him feel better about himself.”

Thankfully, a judge dismissed her case in 2010, saying that EMU was right to kick her out of their grad school program.

Michigan’s House — the one that can’t bring itself to say the word “vagina” — passed a bill on Tuesday with a 59-50 vote to prevent schools in the state from ever doing that again. Because, you know, EMU is the real problem here… Now, the bill goes to the State Senate.

House Bill No. 5040 (a.k.a. The “Julea Ward freedom of conscience act”) blocks a school from punishing any student who refuses to counsel a client because of a “sincerely held religious belief.”

A public degree or certificate granting college, university, junior college, or community college of this state shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.

So if you’re gay, good luck if you get a Christian counselor in Michigan.

Just to be clear, this bill only applies to religious beliefs. As reader Julien pointed out in an email, an animal-lover would still be required (and rightfully so, one could argue) to help a client get over his fear of guns so he can go hunting. But a Christian counselor with homophobia can tell a client to go fuck himself.

Just like Jesus would’ve done.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • The Captain

    If you can’t do your job because of your religion…You need to find another job!

    • Justin Miyundees

      Christianity is now a labor movement.

    • Humanist Ohio

      A religious cleric profession of some sort would accomplish her counseling goals!!

  • observer

    As I’ve said on another post: the more privileges these True Christians© give themselves, the less they are allowed to bitch that they have no rights.

    …Though, now that I think about it, what does this privilege have to do with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, etc. You know, things that Jesus did and is, at least to me, the whole point of Christianity?

  • CoboWowbo

    Wait until the first time a Muslim student invokes Sharia law in his position on something and watch the legislature and so-called Christians supporting this law go absolutely ballistic.

    • Lemon

      Good point. It shouldn’t take too long either,  with the huge muslim population in Michigan.

    • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

      Actually, it already happened. Don’t recall all the details, but it was a Muslim taxi driver for one of the big east-coast airports, and he refused to transport anyone who was visibly drunk, since Islam prohibits alcohol. As I recall, he was fired, and there was a big legal kerfuffle. I THINK his lawsuit for unlawful termination was thrown out of court.

  • Justin Miyundees

    It was sincerely held religious beliefs that allowed slavery to persist and gave the Jim Crow laws solid footing in the good old U.S. of A.  Way to go Julia – your namesake would be thunderstruck.  

    I lived in rural Georgia for ten years from 1994 – 2004.  I’ll guarantee you there are STILL white folks. and a good many of them!, who have the “sincere religious belief” that black people are genetically and mentally inferior and many who would go so far as to say they’re sub-human.   Mormon much anyone?

    Who would’ve thought this mindset would find fertile ground again in America and through a person like Julia Ward? Can blasphemy laws be far behind?  

    Curiouser & curiouser….

    • Bryan

      If the religious can refuse to help others based on THEIR religion, this atheist will use THEIR religion to refuse to help them!
      To each THEIR own!!

    • Humanist Ohio

      Is it the United Nations that has a blasphemy law?! 

  • Dave

    A good way to test a law like this in a way that takes our own biases out of the equation is to imagine its application in a way that is extreme in the opposite direction and then see how we feel about it. At first blush, this law does sound kind of stupid, but try imagining it in a different context and see how you feel about it.

    What if Julia had been Jewish instead of Christian, and the patient had been a Neo-nazi rather than a homosexual? Would you still feel the same way about this law? 

    I’m not saying this is a good law, or a bad law. I’m just saying we all need to free ourselves from our own biases when we consider things like this. When the law seems to favor someone you dislike over someone you like, the law seems stupid. That’s why we have to reverse the logic and see if it changes how we feel.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brady-Bever/40305560 Brady Bever

      Agreed that we need to explore all portions of the law, Dave.  That said, Nazism is hardly a religion.  However, the very idea that a medical professional can refuse you treatment because of who you are is absurd.  What if the medical professional didn’t believe in eating pork and therefore refused to see any patients who ingest pork?  After a while of this kind of justification, it becomes prohibitive (from a time and money standpoint) to continue employing/educating a person in this field if their client list continues to shrink because of their own biases.  Those in the medical profession are there to help people, not judge them, then decide if they warrant their help.

      • Dave

        Apparently you misunderstand the metaphor because homosexuality is also not a religion. But Judaism is, and the thought experiment I proposed is a Jewish counselor refusing to treat a Nazi. Would anyone of us be troubled by that? Also, is it really in a patient’s best interest to be treated by a counselor who has some real fundamental issues with their patient?

        Here’s another thought experiment to try: imagine Julia had treated the patient, and that the patient attempted suicide and survived, only to later discover that Julia was a Christian who believed homosexuality was wrong but had not disclosed it to him? What if the patient then claimed she had subtly used her influence as a counselor to push him towards suicide?

        Or, what if Julia is attempting to refer the patient to someone else because she feels she is unqualified to help him? Or that after serious self-examination she feels that her biases against homosexuality would prevent her from providing the best care she is capable of? Do we really want to force a person who is trying to be honest about her abilities to help someone to proceed anyway? Is that good for society?

        At any rate, this is a complicated issue and not a law that can be condemned easily. We shouldn’t be ruled by our own biases on issues like this or we really will lose our freedoms.

        • Stev84

          The analogy still doesn’t work. There is nothing in Jewish religion dictating that they hate Nazis. Their hatred of Nazis is not based in religion.

          Ideally, yes a counselor should simply refer clients elsewhere if they can’t deal with them for some reason. The problem with Ward is that she trained to become a school counselor. In many cases she might be the only one a teenager can talk to. Referral isn’t really an option in that case

          • AxeGrrl

            The problem with Ward is that she trained to become a school counselor. In many cases she might be the only one a teenager can talk to. Referral isn’t really an option in that case

            That’s precisely it.

        • Artist Of Inari

          On the surface, that is a good argument, however there are too many people in the world willing to help someone, regardless of differences.  You also have to realize that a neo-Nazi would not go to a Jewish person for aide in any matter if it could be helped.  What this entire article is about is bigotted, blind hatred.  Speaking as a devout, life-long pagan (yes, I was pagan before it was trendy) I have been on the receiving end of more Christian based hatred than I care to think about.  That does not make me hate the Christian community.  I would not refuse to give aide to a Christian in need.  But, then again, I believe that I should do no harm to others, and if I were to ignore or neglect someone in need, I would be doing them harm.  What this is telling people is that it is ok for an individual to harm another through neglect, so long as that person believes they are ‘in the right’.  Anywhere else, if  counselor refused to treat a suicidal patient and that patient did succeed in ending his or her life, the counselor would be sued for negligence and or homocide.  This is just compouding the nation’s ‘politically correct’ stupidity.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          If a Jewish counselor refused to treat a suicidal neo-Nazi, then, yes, I would be just as bothered by that. A suicidal teenager is a suicidal teenager, no matter what.

          Also, homosexuality and Nazism are not even comparable. One is an in-born trait discovered while growing up; the other is a position of bigotry and hatred.

          • amycas

             The situation reminds me of the movie American History X

          • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

             “Also, homosexuality and Nazism are not even comparable. One is an
            in-born trait discovered while growing up; the other is a position of
            bigotry and hatred.”

            Likewise, nobody is born with religious beliefs (or political affiliations, favorite sports teams, etc). We don’t let people refuse to do their job because they don’t like the political affiliation of a client or  because a patient is a Giant’s fan, so why do we kowtow to “my god hates fags”?

        • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

           Did you ever watch the TV show “ER”?  There was an African-American Physician-Assistant named Jeanie Boulet (played by Gloria Reuben).  She came upon a patient who needed care.  He had Nazi tattoos on his chest.  She paused briefly but then set about providing professional care to him. As it turned out the guy had given up his racist beliefs some time ago but hadn’t had the opportunity to remove the tattoos, which were now a source of embarrassment to him. By being a professional Jeanie got a chance to learn that people can change.  She also upheld appropriate care standards.  Patients come first.  You don’t get to dump someone just because you may not like them personally. 

          By letting people use their “religious beliefs” to get out of any laws/rules they don’t like, they’re merely being allowed to reinforce their own bigotries and to get a free pass on discrimination.  Why should they be allowed to have special rights others don’t?  And why should patients get the shaft to appease the religious bigotries of others?  If people’s religious beliefs get in the way of their duty to their  patients/clients they need to find other jobs. 

    • Nicole Youngman

       Oh goody, looks  like I get to be the first to call “Godwin!!” :)

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      It doesn’t matter what the beliefs of the counselor are, or what the beliefs of the patient are. There are certain jobs that carry an expectation of providing a critical service: doctors, pharmacists, social workers, crisis counselors. These people are obligated to do what they are trained and licensed to do, without any sort of “conscience” exemptions. If they can’t do that, they shouldn’t be in those sorts of jobs.

      If I were a suicide counselor, and I were talking with, say, a child raping priest, I might be thinking “definitely somebody the world would be better off without”. But I wouldn’t refuse to counsel them, or to give them the best care. I’d do everything in my power to help them- even if I considered them fairly worthless. Because that would be what I signed up to do.

      Where does it stop when you start allowing people in positions of life-and-death to play the religion card to cause actual harm?

    • http://twitter.com/Noadi Sheryl

       There is no article of Jewish faith that involves hatred of Nazis. Now a Jewish councilor might legitimately refuse to treat a Neo-Nazi out of concern for their personal safety but they would have no religious grounds for doing so.

    • Formercorvguy

      So if I have a sincerely held religious belief that blacks are inferior and unworthy of counselling, it is OK not to treat them in Michigan without reprimand under this law?

      Religious people have all sorts of crazy bias and can use this law to do all sorts of crazy things. 

      Don’t like atheists, my sincerely held religious belief is that these people are possessed by demons and I don’t want to treat them.

      It seems to me this law could be used to get away with all manor of bigotry, by sex, religion, sexual orientation, race whatever.

      I wonder could an atheist use it to refuse to treat a christian?  Do sincerely held non-beliefs count? 

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

       I’m an atheist vegetarian.  I’ve spent more than two decades providing support services to omnivores who often are Christian.  I’ve cooked and served their meals (including meat dishes).  I’ve taken people to church and had them put religious programs on the TV during my shift.  I’ve had to counsel devoutly religious individuals who are having crises and are asking for god/religion based support.  I could not and would not tell them “Suck it, this goes against my beliefs so wait until somebody else is available”.  I’d get fired and rightly so, because my job is to provide services to them, not to attend to my own desires. 

    • Baby_Raptor

      Nobody, anywhere, for any reason, should have the right to discriminate simply because their personal religion says it’s bad. I don’t give two shits what the context of the exact situation is. 

    • Keith Pinster

      The different being that being “Neo-nazi” is an (extremely stupid) belief system, whereas being gay is just as much a person’s nature as being left-handed or being black.

  • Gwydion Frost

    I’m pretty sure that his suicidal tendencies could have been addressed without her having to endorse his sexual orientation. In fact, I recall that in the Gospels, Jesus clearly ministered to the “unclean” and those supposedly soulless sub-human non-”Chosen”s called “gentiles”. But, I mean, seriously… why follow the example you want everyone else to be forced to follow…?

    • Pengiep

       IIRC, Gentiles weren’t considered “soulless” by the Jews, but their prayers were not believed by the Jews to contribute to “healing the broken world”. Only Jewish mitzvah’s could do that- according to at least one Jewish interpretation.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=828699303 Louise Murphy Thomas

        God doesn’t discriminate …  funny that

  • TheOnlyKarsh

    While I agree with the sentiment expressed here the law does say that this person has to “refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.”  So the “go fuck yourself” sentiment expressed isn’t quite accurate. 

    Karsh

    • Pisha

      Except that, as pointed out above… especially as a school counselor, there’s a high chance that there may NOT be anyone else to refer a patient to.

      Also, having worked (in an unofficial context) with suicidal people before, it can be really, really difficult for someone in that state to even decide to seek professional help, for a number of reasons.  If they’ve finally decided to do so, being then shuffled off to someone else could, very realistically, confirm in the person’s mind that nobody really cares about them, nobody is willing or able to  help them, and that trying to avoid the inevitable is pointless.

      In other words, if someone is coming to you for help with suicidal tendencies, they are not fooling around and you need to take them seriously – especially if that is your JOB.  Foisting them off on someone else because you don’t want to help them is very probably going to make things worse, and could potentially be the last straw that pushes a desperate teen into making the attempt.

      • TheOnlyKarsh

        Again I agree with outrage of the editorial but the law states that a student can only refuse to treat based on religious conviction if they refer to another therapist who will provide the counseling.  If one isn’t available they cannot refuse to give treatment.

        Again, I agree that it is morally and ethically repugnant to allow professionals to refuse to treat based on religious grounds, especially in an emergency situation.  Just pointing out that what was being related about the law wasn’t what the law actually stated. 

        Karsh

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    Well, the new law does state that there can be no reprimand if the student passes the person off to someone that WILL counsel them, but the last thing a suicidal person needs is to bounce from one counselor to the next. 

    I wonder what she would do with a child abuse case? Would she tell the beaten child that their parent shouldn’t spare the rod?

    • Stev84

      Referral is also problematic in the case of school counselors. On the free market, yeah, there are always other counselors around. But at a small school, she might be the only one.

      • amycas

         There aren’t always other counselors around. Sometimes, only the one accepts your insurance. Sometimes you don’t have insurance that covers mental health, so you have pay out of pocket and go with the cheapest one. Sometimes there really is only one counselor in town. The free market is almost nonexistent when it comes to medical needs.

        • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

          This.

          I’ve come up against the insurance problem and the thin amount of therapists on the ground in my rural area.

    • lasbotellas

      I went through every therapist who took my insurance in my city (eleven). Then I lost my insurance. Bouncing from therapist to therapist sucks, because you basically never learn to trust any of them and as a result learn not to trust any of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brady-Bever/40305560 Brady Bever

    Yep, there’s nothing quite like a suicidal gay student being told by a counselor that they are a horrid sinner…but don’t worry, he/she’ll just pass you off to someone who can empathize with your horrid sinner ways.  (sarcasm)

  • Sick of Hypocrites

    How can this be allowed to happen?

    1st they argue against abortion because all life is sacred, I guess some is mroe sacred then others…

    2nd if you save his life wouldn’t you then logically have a shot at saving his soul, i.e. evangelizing your faith…

    3rd they say i”in Jesus’s name” but then go directly against a teaching from the GOSPEL…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Good_Samaritan

  • Dr. Dream

    It’s misleading to say the “act passes in Michigan.”   It passed the house but it’s got a fair way to go before it becomes law.

  • flaccido

    i suggest all of you to  found a religion with some usefull commandments
    1) you will not pay taxes
    2) you will not go to jail
    3) … and so on…
    and don’t forget to strongly believe in it… but really strongly!!

  • Lamocla

    USA = Unbelievable Stupid American

    While most of the world are moving forward,the good old USA is moving backward. 

  • Lamocla

    Typical Christian hypocrite, what about the verse that woman can not got her hair. I guess she forgot about that verse.

    • Lamocla

      ‘cut’ her hair

  • http://twitter.com/kariedgerton Kari Edgerton

    …Why do I stay in Michigan? 

  • Rwlawoffice

      The fact is that quite a few Christians truly believe that homosexuality is a sin and that is a religious belief that they have the right to hold.  They should not be discriminated against for doing so. All this act does is protect religious freedom which is a right that we all have under the First Amendment. For all of you here you say you would not take that away and would
    fight for the right of religious people to practice their faith, that
    always seems to go away when it comes to homosexuals.

    • Pisha

      Yes, they have the right to hold that belief.  But not to hurt people because of it.

      Look, there are certain religious groups that hold strong beliefs about which medical procedures, medicines, etc.  are acceptable in the eyes of God.  That’s their right too.  But if they choose to go into the medical or pharmaceutical profession, they have to accept that they may be called upon to perform those procedures or distribute those medicines,  because it is PART OF THEIR JOB.  If they’re not willing to do so, then perhaps this is not the best line of work for them.

      Young homosexuals with suicidal tendencies are not exactly rare.  Given bullying and other factors, it’s a depressingly common occurrence.  If you are planning to work as a counselor, especially in a public school or university, you are GOING to encounter kids who need help because of this issue.  If you’re unaware of this, then you’re laughably ignorant about your chosen profession.  If you ARE aware of this and go into the profession anyway, knowing you’re planning to withhold your services from someone who may need them the most, you are a terrible human being and shouldn’t be allowed around vulnerable people.

      Short version: you can believe whatever you want, but human lives have to come first.  If you hold a belief that makes it impossible for you to do a certain job, it is HIGHLY irresponsible to take that job anyway.  Especially when it could potentially make the difference between a dead teen and a live one.

      • Rwlawoffice

         The law requires the student to refer the person to someone that will provide the counseling. That would certainly apply if there was an emergency situation. So there is nothing here which would mean that a student could sit back and allow someone to harm themselves and do nothing.  Trying to apply this extreme example to this situation simply doesn’t work. 

        • Cheron22

          How many school counselors did you’re high school have?  How long until every school counselor in the area holds the sincerely held belief that gays should stop being gay. 
          Should the sucicial teen have to take the time and book a bus trip to the next county? 
          You are a bigot.

          • Rwlawoffice

            Your questions are irrelevant to the law we are discussing.  If you don’t believe that Christians can hold their beliefs then you are a bigot.

            • Baby_Raptor

              The question is entirely relevant. How can you refer someone to another counselor if there’s not another counselor there? 

            • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

              They are entirely relevant because:1) There are standards of practice that are required to be upheld in order to be a counselor.  If you cannot do this you should not be a counselor.

              2) If this is allowed, how many more cases of discrimination will be allowed?  What if a Pagan teen, or a Muslim teen was being bullied, felt suicidal and went to the counselor?  They might be allowed to discriminate against these teens too.  After all, they aren’t Christian and are horrible sinners.

              3) Thinking about this in context of the much-vaunted Golden Rule, would it be acceptable to you for a Christian to be denied treatment because they were not a Pagan or Muslim?  How about a gay or lesbian counselor counseling a heterosexual person who is feeling suicidal, telling that teen that they are wrong to be straight?  

        • amycas

           It’s already been explained in this thread why the “referral” clause is problematic.

          • Rwlawoffice

            I have read those comments and they are unpersuasive and base upon unfounded assumptions.

            • LifeinTraffic

              I don’t understand how they’re unfounded assumptions. 
              Many smaller schools have limited funds to employ a counselor at all, of often the counselor is only part-time. Many small towns have few (possibly one or none) counselors or therapists at all because there simply isn’t enough clientele to attract them.  You’re a lawyer, right? So, I am sure you know there are many small towns with one (or no) law practices because they’re simply not financially viable? I am not sure why you’d think it any less likely to be the case for counselors and therapists. Both these situations negate the realistic possibility of a timely, accessible referral.

              My middle and high schools had one part-time counselor. We lived in a very small town with one (really crappy, as I know from personal experience) counseling service. A referral?  Not an option, at least not a realistic one. I’m not sure why you find this so unrealistic or extreme. 

              • Rwlawoffice

                They are unfounded because the law has nothing to do with counsels in high schools. The law protects college students who are studying counseling and see students as part of their training.

                • LifeinTraffic

                  But that is what she is training to do.  If she can’t perform her duties in full, then she shouldn’t graduate, in part *because* for the above situations (and also because she’s simply not meeting the curriculum requirements, as those who don’t have “religious objects” still have to do).

              • Baby_Raptor

                They’re “unfounded” because he either can’t answer them or personally thinks they’re irrelevant.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      I see. Kill them all and let God sort it out.

      Religious freedom is not an absolute. Like all rights in the Constitution, it has to be balanced against other rights. There is nothing obviously unconstitutional about requiring people in certain life-and-death jobs- as a condition of their employment- to provide service to anybody, whether or not they find it morally objectionable to do so or not. Freedom of religion is not a pass that allows any behavior.

      • Rwlawoffice

         True, but where does this law indicate that harm will occur? It specifically requires a referral before the student is absolved of the duty to provide the counseling.   That would certainly happen in an emergency situation.

        • amycas

           In an emergency situation, there may not be time for a referral. It’s not that easy for suicidal people to seek help. Being told you’re referred to somebody else (especially if they find out this is the reason) could only make things worse for teh patient. They may not ever go to the see the new counselor. The problems with the referral clause have already been discussed on this thread. I suggest you go read those comments.

        • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

           So a gay student walks in.  He’s suicidal because he’s been taunted ceaselessly about being gay and he feels he hasn’t a friend in the world.  Then the counselor, who he thinks is going to help him, says “Sorry, but I can’t help you because my religious beliefs say homosexuality is an abomination.”

          That’s not going to be harmful?

          • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

            Nope, not at all.

            But forcing that /poor Christian/ counselor to attempt to comfort that kid, perhaps save that kid’s life would be such an /awful attack/ on their religious rights. Gods forbid they actually be forced to do their job.

    • TiltedHorizon

      The fact is that quite a few Christians truly believe that the  skin color of black people is a result of a curse on Ham. Some truly believe atheists are ‘fools’ with no sense of ‘good’. Others truly believe that you are not a “True Christian ®”. These are all predicated in religious belief which, per you, they have every right to hold AND apply to others.

      This means a firefighter can selectively choose to put out a house fire based solely on its inhabitants. Doctors no longer have to abide by the hippocratic oath if one offends their religious sensibilities. This means people can freely deny service, in any capacity, as long as they can justify it religiously. While I will always fight for the right of religious people to practice their faith, it should not come at the expense of the health & well being of others.

    • Atoswald

      Rwlawoffice,

      A christian can believe that homosexuality is a “sin” until the end of time. They have every right to that belief, but they do not have the right to force that belief onto others. If a christian cannot perform their job without sacrificing their religious beliefs, then that christian needs to find a different job. Homosexuals are no different than heterosexuals. If your job is to provide counsel to a suicidal patient, and you refuse that counsel because you do not agree with the patient’s personal choice (that in NO WAY affects your life, I might add) you have failed to do your job. Counselors are trained to set aside their personal opinions to help their patients, they are not there to judge, they are there to help. And as for christian opinions that homosexuals are sinners and sinner should be condemned and shunned … christians need to decide which parts of the bible are important to them. Try Matthew 7: 1-5, John 8:1-11 or maybe Luke 5: 30-32. “Love the sinner” and all that, right?

      • Rwlawoffice

        Please point to me where in this law is the counselor’s religious beliefs being forced on someone else.  And where in the law would it not allow the referral of a sucidial patient?

        Also explain how it is unloving to refer someone to a counselor that can help them better if religious beliefs would get in the way ? I would argue that this is a very loving act- recognizing that the counselor’s religious beliefs would prohibit objective counseling and thus it is best to refer that patient to someone else. 

        • allein

          If you can’t be objective you have no business being a counselor.

    • Edmond

      I wonder if maybe they SHOULD be discriminated against for holding the belief that homosexuality is a sin (they are certainly happy enough to discriminate against US just for BEING homosexual).

      It seems that there SHOULD be a little bit of punishment, some undesirable consequences, for treating fellow citizens as if they were criminals of some sort.  We are NOT criminals, we are not harming anyone, and spreading the idea that we ARE, seems dangerously close to slander.  There OUGHT to be a price to pay when vilifying and demeaning undeserving people this way.  Maybe THEN Christians would begin reining in this dispicable behavior.

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

       Lots of things are “sins” according to the Bible.  Divorce, adultery, lying, drunkenness, lust, wearing fabrics made from two different fibers, stealing, murder, working on the “sabbath”, pre-marital sex, dishonoring your parents, cutting your facial hair, etc, etc, etc.  So why is it Christians aren’t demanding the “religious freedom” to not work with divorcees, liars, clean-shaven people, drunkards, and people wearing poly-cotton blends?  Why is it only when they encounter LGBT people and women seeking reproductive health care that their “religious liberties” are being violated? 

      People are free to practice their faith, but when they’re hired to do a job why is it such a burden to ask them to actually do their job?  They’re hired to work, not “practice their faith”.  If they can’t separate the two perhaps they should go work for a church. 

    • Baby_Raptor

      She has the right to believe what she wants. Believing does not mean hurting others, forcing your view on others or throwing a fit because you might encounter someone who disagrees with you. 

  • Istj04

    This story is a screaming example of WHY people who are gay, atheist, or some other “controversial” personal identity label, need to be FUCKING CAREFUL about WHO they “out” themselves to! Why a gay person would see a Christian counselor is beyond me, but maybe this will send a message to those seeking counseling on the “sexual orientation identity issue”-that being: If the “therapist” identifies” as being a “CHRISTIAN” (or any other kind of theist!), RUN LIKE HELL, AND FIND ANOTHER THERAPIST! One that actually HAS A BRAIN, AND WILL GIVE A CRAP! 

    • http://twitter.com/Noadi Sheryl

       The issue here is that the person seeking counseling in this situation was at a student health center where you get the next available person. Unfortunately many people don’t have a lot of options when it comes to who they get treatment from.

      • amycas

         This is exactly why “free market” arguments don’t work in the context of medical health.

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        We have similar problems in our rural areas. One of the few therapists in my area accepted my insurance. Turns out she was a fundie in secular clothing. Things started well and went off the cliff when she found out I was an atheist. Now I can either drive over an hour to the next clisest I can afford or suffer. It’s economically and mentally draining; it defeats the purpose.

        I love when people think the solution is so simple when the reality is it’s far from simple for many.

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

       Given that the majority of the population is Christian, most counselors will likely be Christian.  However, most counselors will be professional enough to know their duty to their patients comes before their personal beliefs.   For the others, they really should stick to “Christian Counseling” which involves “counseling” patients according to “Biblical principles”.  That way the patient knows ahead of time what they’re in for, and the “counselor” can’t whine that they’re being oppressed by not being allowed to preach at the patient. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hugh-Intactive/100002216540067 Hugh Intactive

       And people go for counselling when they’re NOT sure about their sexual (or other) identity. People applying for counselling are ALWAYS more vulnerable than other people.

  • SJH

    I think you may be misrepresenting this case. Can you please provide more information on the case that would support your perspective. From what I can tell, Ms. Ward has a religious belief and when confronted with someone she felt she was unable to adequately help she referred the individual to another counselor that could do a better job. Further, she was not released because she was unable to help this individual, she was released because she refused to agree with the belief that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. It appears to me that the school is trying to squash any thought that might disagree with its agenda. Especially given that she was told that the only way she could stay in the program was to undergo some kind of re-education program where they would teach her why she is wrong.

    • http://twitter.com/Noadi Sheryl

       Imagine for a moment that Ms. Ward was a medical student and a Jehovah’s Witness and refused to learn or perform blood transfusions. Would a medical school be justified in releasing her for that? That homosexuality is not disordered or harmful is as accepted a fact as that blood transfusions are necessary in medicine. You can’t pick and choose what areas of a field you are training to work in are valid.

      • SJH

        I do not think that the two practices are not analogous as you might think.  The difference is that even though homosexuality is commonly accepted in the medical profession, it is still debated by a significant number of people. Obviously she is one of them. Those that disagree with blood transfusions are rare compared to the overall society. Also, if they disagree with blood transfusions then they probably also disagree with most common medical practices and would therefor not be practicing standard medicine.

        • LifeinTraffic

          Actually, you’re wrong about those who don’t believe in blood transfusion not believing in most other standard medical treatments. Blood transfusions are a special case for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are able to partake in the majority of standard medical treatments, so that argument doesn’t hold.

          Medical practice isn’t about what society is debating or not. It’s about science and ethical patient care.  The medical professions accept homosexuality as natural, and that should be the guideline. There are a lot of people who believe in all kinds of woo medicine, too, but you wouldn’t want the AMA basing their recommended courses of care on that, would you?

        • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

           Homosexuality is only “debated” by people who choose to adhere to anti-gay portions of antiquated mythology, and people who simply choose to be bigots.  No reputable practitioners  in the medical, psychiatry, psychology, social work or other professional fields consider homosexuality a disorder/sin/illness nor do they support bigotry towards LGBT individuals. 

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

      She wanted to go through a counseling program while refusing to treat people according to accepted standards.  She demanded the right to refuse certain people proper treatment because she considered them unworthy according to her chosen religious principles. 

      When someone chooses to provide support services to others, particularly individuals who might be in a vulnerable state for one reason or another (like those with mental illnesses, physical or mental disabilities, etc), that person has a particular responsibility to put the needs of those they serve first.  Julea Ward, like many RW Christians, refuses to do that.   She thinks it’s perfectly OK to put her personal bigotries and needs before her job responsibilities and the people she’s hired to serve (or may be hired to serve in the future). 

      I’m an atheist vegetarian and I’ve worked two decades with disabled individuals.  I’ve taken them to church many times.  I’d never think of refusing to do so as my job is to attend to their needs, not my personal desires.  I’ve prepared and served to them more meat dishes than I can count because it’s not my place to push my dietary choices on them.  If I stomped my feet and told my employer I wasn’t going to take my clients to church or serve them meat my employer would fire me, and rightly so.  They pay me to provide supports to the individuals, not attend to my personal desires. 

      It’s such a pity RW Christians can’t figure out such a simple concept.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    What is truly amazing about this is just how readily these folks belittle their own faith. Is this really what you get out of faith in Jesus? Then he really is just another word for your vices. Absolutely disgusting.

  • TheAnalogKid

    Fuck Julea Ward and fuck the legislators. 

  • Dr.

    This is pure I-G-N-O-R-A-N-C-E These people are “Bible thumping literalists”  Most of the time they do not know what the hell they are talking about 0 just regurgitating unfounded and misinterpreted rhetorical.  Get a real education (not EMU) and even Julea would now better.   Interesting video:  “Gor the Bible tells me so”  It is on Netflix…very informative.

  • SJH

    Hemant,
    I know you pride yourself in keeping this blog a free expression of ideas and this is why you allow me to make my comments and it is something for which I am grateful. I wonder though, if you realize that the choice of words also effect the discussion by innately causing a stifled and censored dialogue. By various people using speech irresponsibly (including me at times, for which I am sorry) we automatically close the minds of others and cause misinformation.  Free thought becomes enslaved to emotions and rhetoric, people are polarized and truth along with facts are concealed.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I’m with you, but I can’t monitor everything. Please flag comments that need to be moderated. I try to take care of things on my end, but other than blacklisting offenders automatically, it’s hard to delete every offensive comment.

    • amycas

       http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2164

  • quisquose

    Some Christian’s might think that homosexuality is a crime, and they are free to think that. But all of society is agreed that some people really are criminals.

    If this was a counsellor refusing to help a suicidal person because of a previous conviction, then the counsellor’s professional institute would likely kick that person out of the profession, and no amount of appeals would make a difference.

  • Sred818

    It’s not wrong to have a strong belief in the Bible and in God.  And it’s not wrong to say that you’re not the person to counsel someone who is gay.  She doesn’t hate homosexuals, she doesn’t agree with the lifestyle and her beliefs are so strong that she has to excuse herself from the situation.  That is Not hate.

    • Stev84

       *yawn*

    • Dark Stage

      How can you possibly know that “she doesn’t hate homosexuals”?  Have you asked her?  Her job is to counsel the affliction – suicidal dendencies, not a percieved problem based on unscientific, unmedical, personal beliefs.  Well, actually she is a student trying to learn her profession and should indeed fail as she apparently did not meet the school’s expectations (and no I don’t have specific evidence for that assumption so I will accept criticism on that basis.)

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

      1.  Being gay is not a “lifestyle” any more than is being straight.
      2.  If she’s not willing to learn the approved curriculum she shouldn’t pass, period.
      3.  If she wants to be a counselor she should know it’s supposed to be about helping her patients according to accepted APA standards, not pushing her religion on them. 
      4.  If she insists on putting her religious beliefs before her commitment to her patients she should become a “Christian counselor”, where she won’t need any actual certification or education, and her patients will know ahead of time to avoid her if they want real help. 

    • Drakk

       “It’s not wrong to have a strong belief in the Bible and in God.”

      Depends what you mean by “wrong”.

      If you mean “factually incorrect”, then yes it is.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      [blockquote]It’s not wrong to have a strong belief in the Bible and in God.[/blockquote]
      It’s not illegal. But that doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.

    • Baby_Raptor

      No, it’s not wrong to have a strong belief in god, if that’s what you feel is best for you. However, when those beliefs cause you to harm someone else, that IS wrong. And it IS hate. Stop defending it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    Christians always find a new way to disappoint. 

  • Blanc_Slate

    Julea Ward is in the wrong profession. 

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    So you don’t have to actually learn psychology to get a degree in psychology.  Just say it’s against your deeply held religious beliefs and you’ll get that degree without those pesky books, learning and other academical type stuff.  Woe to the patients who think you have an actual education like all of those other counselors.  

  • DG

    Ever notice how overused the word -phobia is today?  It’s like the word ‘Communist’ in the 1950s.  It doesn’t make a shred of sense the way it’s used, but hey, it makes us feel good for using it I guess.   It’s especially good while trying to find ways to impose my values on others: you don’t agree with me?  Why, you must be a [fill in the blank]phobe.  And we all know that all laws should dictate that [fill in the blank]phobes should have no rights to partake in our society the way people like me do, right?  My what an enlightened era we live in. 

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

      You mean how Christians toss out “Christophobe” whenever people won’t kowtow to all of their unreasonable demands for special rights and treatment?  I know just what you mean. 

      • DG

        Well, in fairness, Christians borrowed that from the prevalence of other -phobes, but I’m not a fan of the word in any event.  I think it’s a cheap and lazy way of avoiding discussion.  I encourage Christians not to use such terms. 

        • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

           The word “homophobe” came into use in the early 1970′s.  I’m not sure what other uses of “phobe” have been floating around other than “Chrsistophobe” and “Islamophobe”.  At any rate, I’ve mostly stopped using “homophobe” in favor of simply calling a bigot a bigot.  If nothing else it avoids those inevitable claims of “I don’t fear homosexuals”.  

          • DG

            Christophobia was a term that began to be tossed about as the term homophobia took off in common usage sometime in the later 80s.  The term homophobia, I think, has origins earlier than the 70s, and was supposed to be used as it sounds: someone who had a crippling, irrational fear.  Though the use, when translated literally, should actually read: fear of same.  But most people got the gist.

            Nonetheless, it came more and more to be used against anyone who didn’t agree with homosexual normality.  By the 90s, as you suggest, it was simply a euphemism for calling someone a bigot.  That was about the time that some began to use ‘Christophobe’, though with no aid in the media or the pop culture, it didn’t catch on (sort of like Freedom Fries or Homocide bombers).

            After 9/11, in following the example of homophobia, folks began to toss about the term Islamaphobia for people who had a wide variety of opinions about Islam in the wake of the attacks.  Many objected, saying that while some no doubt could actually be ‘phobic’ toward Islam (as they no doubt can be about anything, Christianity, homosexuality, or anything at all), it was hardly ‘irrational’ to have a fear of something that just produced such horrible results.  It was at least understandable that they would have reservations before further investigation into Islam.

            In recent years, I’ve read more and more articles of folks throwing a yellow flag on the term, saying it doesn’t mean anything at all really.  First, it must be an irrational fear.  Second, it can be a crippling thing for a person.  Third – and this is a biggie – it is usually something the person wishes to rid himself of.  So I’m claustrophobic.  I know it’s irrational.  It keeps me from doing things I wish I could do.  And I’d give my right arm to overcome it. That last part is the biggest problem, since it’s not clear that anyone for whom these terms are used have reason or care to change. 

    • Baby_Raptor

      Partaking in society doesn’t mean that you can hurt others. You can believe in god and be a good citizen all you want…the second you start hurting others, you’re in the wrong and people will justifiably start coming down on your ass. 

  • Hiramabiff

    Black Christians who dislike or hate gays, the irony. Remember Eddie Long?

  • Ken

    Is it just me, or would Jesus not be good enough for today’s Christians?  After all, he hung out with the scum — actually spent time with them.  And he had liberal views like “don’t judge” and “money won’t get you into heaven.”  And don’t give me that crap about talking down to people because of their inferior understanding — HE’S FUCKING GOD! There are no excuses possible, so what he said is what he meant, whether you like it or not.

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

       The meme today is “If you don’t let me oppress you, you’re persecuting me”. 

      These Christians really aren’t about Jesus.  They’re more about Leviticus and Paul.    Jesus is just a figurehead for them rather than someone to emulate.

  • Leon Seltzer

    Readers might well  be interested in an article I recently published in THE HUMANIST on Julea Ward vs. Eastern Michigan Univ. before Michigan’s House of Representatives made this terrible decision. Here’s the link:  
    Religious Freedom or Government-Sanctioned Discrimination? http://thehumanist.org/may-june-2012/religious-freedom-or-government-sanctioned-discrimination/

  • zbl

    Well, at least they require the bigot to provide a reference to a real counselor. Though I imagine, if I was a gay teen seeking help, I wouldn’t want to be in therapy under a homophobic bigot anyway.

  • Parse

    People do have the right to believe that homosexuality is a sin.  However, tied into that, is the responsibility to accept the consequences of acting on that belief. 

  • kaydenpat

    Julea Ward must be very proud of herself.  She has been able to change the law to reflect her homophobia and to ensure that others can follow in her footsteps.  Hopefully, this Act will be challenged and overturned if passed.  It allows bigots to hide behind their religious beliefs to do whatever they like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/markfheil Mark Heil

    How about flipping that around and requiring schools to have counselors available from all belief systems, 24/7.  

  • Redvixenwitch

    This is ridiculous! She should at least be required by LAW to refer IMMEDIATELY. I get not wanting to take on a long term client due to conflicts of conscience, but this woman is directly responsible for that client’s death. 

  • Wattersflores

    I was raised to believe that people of African decent were not (and could never be) righteous enough to be Christian (mark of Kane). They are inherently evil and sinful, until the end of time. What this woman is saying is as ridiculous as the belief I was taught as a child. Just sayin’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/norm.schroeder1 Norm Schroeder

    The principles of the JOB should be of the utmost importance. If your beliefs conflict with these principles, find a new job. This is just like pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control because of their fairy tales.

    It amazes me how a person in a minority who has probably been subject to prejudice due to something like skin color can do it to someone based on something equally as ridiculous.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that if someone refused to serve her in any capacity because shes black (based on religious principles) she would be changing her tune.

  • Cal Gravatt

    hey friendly atheist! are you aware of the religious ads that pop up on your page?  You really are a “friendly atheist”!

  • Dan Nobull

    Glad to see that she actually won! You are lying, because she did not ‘refuse’ to counsel a homosexual, she refused to ‘affirm’ his lifestyle. In fact, she said that she is happy to counsel homosexuals. So please stop lying.

  • Ncc2279

    I’ve been reading both sides to this issue, and find that conservative arguments miss the entire point of Julia’s expulsion. It’s not because she’s Christian, or that she holds certain beliefs, she was expelled because she failed to follow one of the most important tenants of counseling: Put your own opinions and views aside when counseling. As a graduate student in U Mich SSW with a mental health concentration, we’re continually counseled to avoid allowing your personal views and beliefs to cloud your professional judgement in treating clients. We continue to practice a “client-first” approach. The reason is that we must help the client overcome their challenges through their strengths. These strengths may include associations or practices that go against our own beliefs and practices.

    As many have eloquently said earlier, we must not allow the counseling profession to be fragmented by religious or other beliefs of the counselor. It’s not about the counselor, it’s about the client. I agree, Julia needs to find another career choice.

  • erock

    Her professional board should have a code of ethics that prevents that kind of behavior, especially based on personal biases. It should require her to, at the very least, refer such a client to another more suitable counselor. Failing that, she should have her license revoked or not granted in the first place.


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