An appeals court ruled in favor of that graduate student who was expelled from her program in counseling because she could not approve of homosexuality due to her Christian beliefs.
A counseling student who declined to advise a gay client might have been expelled from her university because of her faith, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday (Jan. 27).
Citing her evangelical Christian religion, Julea Ward disagreed with professors at Eastern Michigan University who told her she was required to support the sexual orientation of her clients. When the graduate student was assigned a client who sought counseling on a same-sex relationship, she asked to have the client referred to another counselor.
Ward was then expelled from the school.A lower court sided with the university, but Ward appealed, saying the school had violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.On Friday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Ward could have a valid claim, and sent the case back to a district court for another hearing.
“A reasonablreasonable jury could conclude that Ward’s professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith, not due to a policy against referrals,” the appeals court ruled.
What this means is that the student can now sue the university, her prior suit having been thrown out of court.
The court’s ruling makes for some interesting reading. The school argued that Ward’s request for the gay patient to be referred to someone else violated the profession’s code of ethics. But the court noted that the code actually calls for counselors to refer patients to others when personal considerations arise. When Ward asked for the referral, she was specifically avoiding imposing her beliefs on the patient. The school’s own stated reasons for expelling the student are thus exploded.