Eastern Michigan president Susan W. Martin

A lawsuit has been filed against Eastern Michigan University, accusing the school of tossing a student out of a graduate counseling program because she refused to endorse homosexuality as morally good.

Julea Ward filed suit after she was dismissed from the school’s counseling training for not affirming homosexuality and then refusing to recant her beliefs in “disciplinary proceedings,” according to the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom.

WND called president Susan W. Martin’s office for comment and was referred to a media relations office. A statement release later by Pam Young, director of communications at EMU, did not address the student’s dismissal.

Young said, “Although Eastern Michigan University does not comment on pending litigation, we are a diverse campus with a strong commitment not to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

But David French, senior counsel for the ADF, said, “When a public university has a prerequisite of affirming homosexual behavior as morally good in order to obtain a degree, the school is stepping over the legal line.”

Ward was dismissed from the program March 12, and the dean of the college of education affirmed the decision on March 26, according to the ADF.

“Julea has a constitutional right not to be compelled to speak a message she disagrees with. She acted as a professional counselor should – with great concern both for her beliefs and the client,” ADF legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco explained.

“The two are not incompatible, but EMU’s policies are incompatible with the Constitution,” he said.

The ADF said EMU “requires students in its program to affirm or validate homosexual behavior within the context of a counseling relationship and prohibits students from advising clients that they can change their homosexual behavior.”

The public interest law firm said Ward never has addressed homosexual behavior in any form during counseling sessions.

“Julea did the responsible thing and followed her supervising professor’s advice to have the client referred to a counselor who did not have a conscience issue with the very matter to be discussed in counseling,” French said. “She would gladly have counseled the client if the subject had been nearly any other matter.”

The student was targeted by the school’s disciplinary process as a result of her decision, and she was “informed that the only way she could stay in the graduate school counseling program would be if she agreed to undergo a ‘remediation’ program … to see the ‘error of her ways,'” ADF said.

The goal was to have Ward “change her ‘belief system,’ as it relates to counseling about homosexual relationships, conforming her beliefs to be consistent with the university’s views,” the law firm said.

She refused and was given the choice of leaving voluntarily or having a formal review.

ADF-allied attorney Steven Jentzen of Ypsilanti, Mich., is serving as local counsel in the case.

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities. ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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