Grad student who was expelled for refusing to counsel gay client settles for $75,000
A nationally-publicized lawsuit in Michigan pitting religious freedom against gay rights has ended in a settlement.
The plaintiff, Julea Ward, a former student at Eastern Michigan University, was expelled from the schoolís masterís degree counseling program after she declined to provide counseling to a gay person, reports the Detroit Free Press. Ward based her decision to refer the potential client on her religious beliefs.
EMU contended that Ward was dismissed because she failed to adhere to the American Counseling Associationís code of ethics. Under the terms of the settlement, Ward will receive $75,000. EMU, the defendant, wonít have to alter its curriculum.
Legal proceedings began in 2009 when the Alliance Defense Fund (now called Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a lawsuit on Wardís behalf. At the time, she was training to become a K-12 school counselor in Eastern Michiganís graduate counseling program.
The Alliance Defense Fund had sought a court order requiring EMU to change its curriculum to permit referrals in cases when the religious beliefs of counseling students could cause a professionalism conflict. Such cases could occur when sexual relationships, abortion, premarital sex and other contentious moral issues arise.
The policy at Eastern Michigan ó which remains unchanged under the terms of the settlement ó obligates counseling students to the code of ethics of the American Counseling Association and forbids discrimination.
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