Eastern Michigan University loses attempt to silence Christian graduate student

Good news from Alliance Defending Freedom.


 Eastern Michigan University has agreed to settle an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit filed on behalf of Julea Ward, a graduate student whom the university expelled from a counseling program for abiding by her religious beliefs. As a result, a federal district court issued an agreed-uponorder of dismissal Monday.

Even though counseling referrals are a common and accepted professional practice, the university expelled Ward when she sought to avoid violating her religious beliefs by referring a potential client to another counselor. In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in her favor.

“Public universities shouldn’t force students to violate their religious beliefs to get a degree. The 6th Circuit rightly understood this and ruled appropriately, so the university has done the right thing in settling this case,” said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco, who argued before the court in October of last year. “When Julea sought to refer a potential client to another qualified counselor–a common, professional practice that is endorsed by her profession’s code of ethics–EMU denied the referral. Then it attacked and questioned her religious beliefs, ultimately expelling her from the program. We are pleased that Julea and her constitutionally protected rights have been vindicated.”

EMU initiated its disciplinary process against Ward shortly after she enrolled in a counseling practicum course in January 2009, when she was assigned a potential client seeking assistance regarding a sexual relationship that was contrary to Ward’s religious convictions. Ward recognized the potential conscience issue with the client and asked a supervisor how to handle the matter. The supervisor advised Ward to reassign the potential client to a different counselor. EMU then informed Ward that she could only stay in the counseling program if she agreed to undergo a “remediation” program. Its purpose was to help her “see the error of her ways” and change her “belief system” as it relates to counseling about homosexual relationships.

In a strongly worded opinion in Ward v. Wilbanks, the 6th Circuit reversed the district court decision in favor of the university and sent the case back for trial, saying, “a reasonable jury could conclude that Ward’s professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith….” Moreover, the decision notes, “A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree.”

When I read this story, it made me think of all the other students who went along quietly with whatever left-wing political correctness the university wanted to indoctrinate them with, just so they could pass and get their degrees. I don’t think it’s an accident that this happened in a non-STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field, either. That’s where the left is the strongest – in the areas of study that are the least rooted in reality.

7 thoughts on “Eastern Michigan University loses attempt to silence Christian graduate student”

  1. Though I studied public health, I think I would be hard pressed to win respect and much of a career path in any aspect of it having to do with reproductive health simply because I favor abstinence education and and am pro-life. I remember hearing that Planned Parenthood “wasn’t just about abortions” and that they actually provide a range of crucial services for women, so I thought about working there – but when I looked at the application information, it stated that I had to be pro-choice to even be considered.

  2. The liberals are quite numerous in some STEM fields as well. The thought police are very active in biology, for example. I myself was accepted into a PhD program in biology and had a professor who was already asking me to go ahead and start working with him that summer (rather than waiting until fall)…until I asked him a simple question about Intelligent Design, at which point he blew up, starting calling names, and refused to work with me. I’m just glad I found out his bias before I wasted several years working on a degree he never would have signed off on. Apparently, not believing in evolution is a grave sin among many biologists and they can’t possibly give a degree to someone so ignorant (since if you don’t agree with them, you MUST be unforgivably ignorant).

      1. It was a calculated risk. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay under the radar indefinitely and I wanted to know how the professor would react before I spent years working on a degree with him.

        I seriously thought about just keeping my views to myself. But in the end I knew God was leading me not to. You see, because I was already known as “the creationist” at my old school, I was able to keep a friend from giving up on God. She was raised in a Christian home, but had a lot of questions, especially about evolution. But all her professors that she looked up to were so sure that evolution was true. She really respected me and knew my reputation as an excellent student (and a creationist) so she talked to me, got some answers, and rededicated her life to Christ. I couldn’t let someone else go down the wrong road by not speaking up.

        In my case, I wasn’t planning on a lifelong career anyway. I was getting my education because I enjoyed it and was single at the time. I always planned to be a wife and mother whenever I found the right guy. I finished my master’s degree and figured I’d go ahead and work on a PhD. I’m good at academics, why not go all the way? But not at the cost of hiding my light under a bushel.

        In the end, the rejection by that professor was the best thing that ever happened to me. I ended up making some friends, due to my story, that invited me to a creation conference where I met my husband. I also started looking for teaching position (since it was too late to get into grad school anywhere) and ended up teaching not far from where my now-husband was working on his degree, allowing us to date and then marry. God orchestrated it all and it’s awe-inspiring to look back and see how He was working through all of it, even the stuff I wasn’t too happy about at the time.

        1. I totally understand the trade-off. That’s what makes Christianity so interesting. It’s like being a secret agent. You have to decide how and men to reveal your identity based on your objectives. For those who take Christianity seriously and are willing to serve, it can be as suspenseful as any Tom Clancy novel. We always have the wishes of our client before us, but the question becomes – how do I best achieve his objectives?

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