Christian Counseling Student Who Refused to Treat LGBT Patients Receives $75,000 in Settlement with Former School

Remember Julea Ward?

Julea Ward

Ward was a graduate student in counseling at Eastern Michigan University. She also happened to be a Christian and refused to treat a suicidal gay student because her Christianity prevented her from “helping him feel better about himself.”

After she refused to undergo LGBT “sensitivity training,” EMU kicked her out of their grad program. In 2010, a judge supported the school’s decision. Ward and her lawyers appealed it.

In the interim, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill in her honor so that no school could punish a student “who refuse[d] to counsel a client because of a ‘sincerely held religious belief.’” (The Senate never acted on it.)

Which brings us to yesterday.

EMU has now decided to settle the case rather than waste more money on litigation. They’re paying Ward $75,000 as part of the settlement (the money will come from EMU’s insurance provider).

Ward’s legal counsel, Jeremy Tedesco, said he is pleased and feels that Ward’s constitutionally protected rights have been “vindicated.”

Public universities shouldn’t force students to violate their religious beliefs to get a degree. The Sixth Circuit rightly understood this and ruled appropriately, so the university has done the right thing in settling this case,” Tedesco said.

Kraft said the resolution of the lawsuit will leave the university’s policies, programs and curricular requirements intact.

Just to be clear, the school didn’t lose the case. And they were never wrong to kick Ward out of their program. They just can’t keep spending time and money trying to defend the notion that someone who wants to be a counselor ought to be able to help people instead of demonize them for being gay or lesbian.

So, congratulations, Julea Ward. You’re getting a ton of money for being a first-class bigot who can’t help the very people you’re supposed to be counseling… out of fear it will make Jesus cry. You went into EMU’s program knowing full well what they required from potential counselors but figured they would bend the rules for you because your religion teaches you that some people don’t deserve your “kindness.”

I hope that money covers your expenses while you look for a different line of work.

There’s an old video of Ward speaking about her case:

She claims she only refused to “affirm” homosexuality. She never had to do that, though. All she had to do was counsel all of her patients in a professional, mature, and ethical way. She couldn’t do it. And for her refusal to do her job, she just got $75,000.

At least there’s one upside to this: By not letting this case go to trial, there was no precedent set. That means other Christians in similar positions won’t be able to say, “I refuse to help gay patients, too, and you can’t make me! It was okay for Julea, so it’s ok for me.”

(Thanks to Jay for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.