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Judge advances student's lawsuit against school

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 03/27/2010 @ 12:15 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

A federal judge will allow to continue a lawsuit by a former student against a long list of university officials who tossed her out of a graduate counseling program after she said her Christian beliefs would not allow her to affirm homosexual behavior.


Eastern Michigan president Susan W. Martin

WND reported earlier on the dispute involving Eastern Michigan University, which was accused of tossing Julea Ward out of the program illegally.

She sued following “disciplinary proceedings” that resulted from her request that a training class “client” be referred to another student because she could not counsel him concerning his homosexual relationship, according to the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom.

When the case was filed, 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 then, “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, 2009, and the dean of the college of education affirmed the decision on March 26, according to the ADF.

The court’s decision, written by U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, said, “Ward has sufficiently [pled] and come forward with evidence that EMU defendants’ act of dismissing Ward violated First and Fourteenth Amendment rights so clearly established that a reasonable official in their position would have clearly understood that they were under an affirmative duty to refrain from such conduct.”

The judge said there are “genuine issues of material fact” about the school’s “true motivations” for dismissing Ward from the program. Further, the judge concluded, the student’s actions to avoid in advance a counseling session for which she had reservations probably actually followed professional ethical guidelines, instead of breaking them as the school accused.

The demand by EMU regents, school executives and others for the case to be dismissed was therefore denied, the judge said.

The student had been 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.

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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