Religious Law

Mich. Attorney General Backs Student Who Refused to Counsel Gay Patients

A graduate student kicked out of Eastern Michigan University after refusing to work with gay patients in its counseling program has won the backing of the Michigan attorney general.

Former student Julea Ward contends she could not counsel a gay client because of her religious beliefs that homosexuality is immoral, according to and the Detroit Free Press. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed an amicus brief in her case, pending before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati.

“The religious freedoms enshrined in our Constitution do not evaporate when you step on campus,” said Schuette in an online statement announcing the filing of the brief (PDF posted by the Chronicle of Higher Education).

Ward and her lawyers at the Alliance Defense Fund contend the school violated her right to the free exercise of religion when it ousted her in 2009. The school, on the other hand, says it dismissed Ward because she didn’t follow an ethics code that requires counselors to set aside their personal beliefs when counseling clients.

A federal judge who ruled against Ward last July said she “has distorted the facts in this case to support her position that defendants dismissed her due to her religious beliefs,” according to the Free Press account.

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