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Higher Ed in the News

Judge upholds dismissal of counseling student who refused to treat gay clients

July 28, 2010

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Eastern Michigan University by a student who was expelled from its graduate program in school counseling last year for refusing, on religious grounds, to affirm homosexual behavior in serving clients.

The U.S. District Court ruling held that the policy at issue was not a speech code but "an integral part of the curriculum," and that Ward's dismissal from the program "was entirely due" to her "refusal to change her behavior," rather than her beliefs.

The university "had a right and duty to enforce compliance" with professional ethics rules barring counselors from being intolerant or engaging in discrimination, and no reasonable person could conclude that a counseling program's requirement that students comply with such rules "conveys a message endorsing or disapproving of religion," Judge Steeh wrote.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of Christian lawyers that is helping to represent the student, Julea Ward, issued a statement saying it plans to appeal the judge's decision.

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