• August 29, 2015

Federal Judge Upholds Dismissal of Counseling Student Who Balked at Treating Gay Clients

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

In an order granting summary judgment to the university on Monday, Judge George Caram Steeh of the U.S. District Court in Detroit held that the university's requirement that the student be willing to serve people who are homosexual was reasonable, and did not amount to an infringement of the Christian student's constitutional rights to free speech and free expression of religion.

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 on Tuesday saying it plans to appeal the judge's decision.

"Christian students shouldn't be expelled for holding to and abiding by their beliefs," said David French, a senior counsel for the group, which helped out in a similar lawsuit filed against Augusta State University, in Georgia, this month.

Ms. Ward, who entered the Eastern Michigan program in 2006 in hopes of becoming a high-school counselor, had not been disciplined in any way for expressing her views, in classroom discussions or in written course work, that homosexuality was morally wrong. In fact, she had received A's in all of her classes, the judge's summary of her case said.

Her opposition to homosexuality got her into trouble, however, when she enrolled last year in a practicum course that involved counseling real clients in a university-operated clinic. When she encountered a client who wanted to be treated for depression—but previously had been counseled about a homosexual relationship—she asked her faculty supervisor whether she could refer the client to another counselor, explaining that her religious views precluded her from doing anything to affirm the client's homosexual behavior.

To maintain accreditation through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, the program that Ms. Ward was in is required to familiarize its students with the ethics codes set forth by the American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor Association. In refusing to affirm the homosexual behavior of clients, Ms. Ward was accused of violating various provisions of the groups' ethics codes, including prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and an American Counseling Association rule holding that its members should not demonstrate "an inability to tolerate different points of view."

The faculty members overseeing the counseling program offered Ms. Ward three options—voluntarily leaving the counseling program, completing a remediation plan intended to change her thinking about the issue, or requesting a formal hearing. She opted for the hearing, which was held in March 2009 by a panel consisting of five faculty members and a student representative.

At the hearing, Ms. Ward said she refused to affirm any behavior that "goes against what the Bible says" and that she disagreed with, but did not plan to violate, the American Counseling Association's prohibition against therapy aimed at changing a homosexual person's sexual orientation. Afterward, the hearing panel unanimously recommended that she be dismissed from the counseling program. She responded by suing.

Along with her First Amendment claims, Ms. Ward's lawsuit alleged that the university had engaged in viewpoint discrimination and violated her Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. It also argued that the policy cited in dismissing her amounted to an unconstitutional speech code.

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

The ruling said that "instead of exploring options that might allow her to counsel homosexuals about their relationships," Ms. Ward "stated that she would not engage in gay-affirming counseling, which she viewed as helping a homosexual client engage in an immoral lifestyle."

The ruling said, "Her refusal to attempt learning to counsel all clients within their own value systems is a failure to complete an academic requirement of the program."


1. auplibrary - July 28, 2010 at 06:24 am

I think they made the right decision and am glad it is being upheld. What next? A suicidal student who is told they will be damned if they commit suicide? A Muslim or Jewish student told they are going to hell if they don't become Christians? A counselor that cannot seriously attempt to separate their personal feelings and beliefs while working with clients is not only NOT useful - they will almost certainly do harm.

2. richpa - July 28, 2010 at 08:16 am

Good call. This is no different than a physician refusing to treat black patients or Jews, or a counselor with different beliefs refusing to work with a Christian client.

3. sisyphus93 - July 28, 2010 at 08:20 am

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4. jraffels - July 28, 2010 at 08:20 am

I entirely agree. Anyone who wants to be a counselor, and especially to HIGH SCHOOL students, needs to be able to separate his/her private life from his/her professional life, just like the rest of us. The ruling comment that she refused "to attempt learning to counsel all clients within their own value systems" is entirely accurate, and I have to wonder how effective she would have been as a high school counselor were she allowed to practice that profession while passing judgement based on her own value system. High school students are confused enough to begin, without the counselor, of all people, attempting to impose his/her own beliefs on them, when they should be providing non-judgemental, non-partisan guidance meant to give them the tools to make their own decisions about such matters.

Additionally, I have to wonder why she thinks that she has the right to discriminate against groups that she sees as "immoral" and to accuse the university of engaging in "viewpoint discrimination" when clearly she is doing the same. This woman never should have been admitted to a graduate program in the first place, if that's the sort of reasoning she uses.

5. droslovinia - July 28, 2010 at 08:49 am

What an insane world...washing out of a program by claiming to be a Christian while denying the Bible's strictures against judging other people. Sad.

Seriously, kudos to the university for not washing her out for her beliefs, so much as her inability to uphold the ethical standards of the profession. It is somewhat tragic that she and the attorneys advising her seem unable or unwilling to recognize this distinction. What's next for those attorneys? Suing a medical school for expelling a student who refuses to affirm the Hippocratic Oath on religious grounds?

6. lexalexander - July 28, 2010 at 09:00 am

If this behavior (for it is behavior, not belief, that is being addressed here) is not legally acceptable, why is it acceptable for pharmacists to opt out of selling contraception or Plan B?

7. 22136164 - July 28, 2010 at 09:00 am

This is very difficult, as she is being asked to support and uphold the student's belief but not her own.

8. 22174061 - July 28, 2010 at 09:04 am

22136164, that's because in a counseling relationship the client's welfare takes precedence.

9. 22136164 - July 28, 2010 at 09:07 am

It is not that simple. If you believe the client is causing harm to him/herself, then his/her welfare is jeopardized.

10. 22174061 - July 28, 2010 at 09:14 am

There's no evidence that simply being gay or lesbian causes harm to one's self. If a counselor assumes otherwise, he or she is showing bias, which will have a detrimental effect on counseling. If the counselor cannot put the welfare of the client above his or her own comfort level, the counselor should leave the profession. The judge in this case seems to agree.

11. dane13 - July 28, 2010 at 09:22 am

We need to select professions to which we are well suited. If an individual chooses to belong to a sect, and that sect prohibits certain behaviors or beliefs, then the individual must choose a career that accommodates those self-imposed limitations. The fact is, not all Christians believe homosexuality is wrong... amazingly, there are countless Christians who affirm ALL of God's creation. Only the conservative sectarians deny the reality of diversity in the human population.

In deciding to ascribe to narrow-minded beliefs, Ward has disqualified herself from the counseling profession. This is her choice. Perhaps she could become an actuary or a cloistered nun... some career in which her beliefs and their limitations would not be so painfully challenged. I feel for her. Imagine how difficult it must be to live as a minority in this world...

12. ajkphd - July 28, 2010 at 09:23 am

As a psychologist and a gay man, it is clear to me that the judge made the right decision. I have counseled many religious Christians who are struggling with their sexual orientation and I never question or reject their religious belief systems. My role as a therapist is to help the client find their own solution. Shouldn't a Christian counselor be able to do the same and treat this student's depression without her own religious belief's getting in the way? This student counselor need not accept homosexuality nor change her belief, but scientific evidence on homosexuality and professional ethics suggest that gay or lesbian individuals should be able to receive counseling free from religious bias. In the past, some people used the Bible to justify their bias against interracial marriage. Should a counselor be able to refuse to treat mixed race couples? The Old Testament suggests that eating shellfish is wrong. Should I refuse to counsel individuals who eat shrimp cocktails? Where do we draw the line between one's personal religious beliefs and the the workplace?

13. 22136164 - July 28, 2010 at 09:28 am

Counselors challenge client behavior and beliefs every day based on their beliefs of what would be the most helpful course of action for their counselee. Are they biased? Are they imposing their own belief systems?

14. dashwood - July 28, 2010 at 09:34 am

The notion that being a counselor means that you must be able to treat each and every person who comes before you for treatment strikes me as ridiculous. Ms. Ward offered to refer the client to another counselor, which under the circumstances appears to be the reasonable thing to do. There are many instances in which a counselor may be confronted by clients who want affirmation for what the counselor believes to be immoral behavior. A counselor should not be required to affirm (read: support) what he or she sees as immoral behavior on the part of a client. The sensible thing in this case is to have refer the case to another counselor, as Ms. Ward suggested. Instead, the accreditation council and the university take the position that all counselors must check their moral beliefs at the door and provide affirmation for what they consider to be immoral behavior, even if the counselor believes that it is damaging to do so.

15. physicsprof - July 28, 2010 at 09:38 am

"At the hearing, Ms. Ward said she refused to affirm any behavior that "goes against what the Bible says"

That's troubling. What's next? Koran? Good decision, Judge.

16. 22136164 - July 28, 2010 at 09:45 am

Good decision, Ms. Ward.

17. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 09:52 am

Couselors challenge client behavior in ways that are designed to help their clients accept themselves and find ways of acting in everyday society that contribute to their human flourishing. These paths are discovered in the process of therapy; they are not predetermined by the therapist who has a certain idea of how all should live. Of course therapists do have biases as it is a rather conservative profession (it advises the individual on how to fit in with society rather than working to effect social change), but these tend toward the more open end of mainstream culture, which does not condone explicit expressions of homophobia.

18. dane13 - July 28, 2010 at 09:55 am

To those who think counselors should be able to reject clients based on religious beliefs: think this through for a minute. Is every prospective client required to fill out a survey of all their issues or potential issues, in order to be prejudged as fit or not fit for that counselor's services?

Let's see... if I'm a vegetarian and I believe eating meat is morally wrong, can I reject omnivores who are struggling with their food orientation?

GET REAL. Ward is unfit to be a counselor except at a conservative Christian institute.

19. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 09:59 am

@dashwood: A judge in Louisiana decided he could not affirm interracial marriages, so he sent interracial couples to other judges. How do you think that felt for the couples in question? Do you think as a judge he had more of an obligation to the law, or do you think he had the right to nullify them based on his own views?

How do you think it would feel for a high school kid to open him or herself to a counselor, only to have that counselor say, "Oh. I'm sorry that you feel suicidal because your parents don't accept you because of your homosexuality. They're right, of course, but let me find someone who won't make you feel like the abomination you are."

20. vatican - July 28, 2010 at 10:00 am

There are two issues here - the rights of the client and the rights of Ms. Ward. I don't think a legal decision in this case has really resolved any thing. There will continue to be this struggle. Ms. Ward opted to refer the case to someone else when she realized she could not deal with this case. Kudos should be given to her for her maturity and recognition of the fact that she couldn't deal with a homosexual client. Instead, in this case, she is punished. To require her to attend a remedial session to change her view is preposterous! Just playing the Devil's advocate here - how about having the homosexual client to attend a remedial session to change his homosexual tendencies? Now that doesn't seem political correct suddenly, does it? Until we recognize that the two strong and opposing views cannot ever meet, and the next logical solution would be that of Ms. Ward - that is to refer the client to someone else - we will continue to see such cases (including pharmacists who refuse to dispense the after morning pill or sell contraceptives, doctors who refuse to perform abortions, etc etc).

21. 22174061 - July 28, 2010 at 10:01 am

22136164, whether or not a counselor challenges a client's belief depends on what that belief is, and should be informed by scientific evidence (which the counselor is expected to keep up with). For example, an alcoholic client's belief that getting drunk will help him succeed in an important job interview should probably be challenged by his counselor, while a female client's belief that women are just as capable as men of succeeding as President of the U.S. would probably not be challenged by most therapists. The belief that there is something intrinsically wrong with a person who is gay or lesbian has no scientific basis at this time, and so a client's belief it is acceptable to be gay would not be something most counselors would challenge.

22. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 10:02 am

Consider especially if my above scenario was the first contact the child ever had with counseling and was on the edge to get there in the first place.

23. profpsych - July 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

The issue is not as straightforward as many comments suggest. First, the very reason public & professional opinion has shifted from condemning to affirming homosexuality is the scientific data that suggest some genetic component to orientation, in other words that homosexuals to not "choose" to be gay. We now also have data suggesting that propensity towards fundamentalistic thought is also (though likewise not entirely) affected by genes. Both homosexuality and fundamentalism are minority phenomena. As a culture we have to decide how much freedome and, conversely, how much restriction we plan to put on any minority. Second, it seems to me the trainee did not set to change or condemn the homosexual client, but simply to refer her/him. In all helping professions, one should know one's limitation of competence. Certain fundamentalistic christian therapists probably are NOT competent to treat gay clients. It is not unethical to have populations one does not treat. For instance, there are therapists who treat only men, or only women, by choice and by competence. Perhaps,the more tolerant among us struggle with extending our tolerance to the intolerant.

24. honore - July 28, 2010 at 10:10 am

Her personal views should have NOTHING to do with her professional performance unless she finds herself unable to separte the 2.

Therein lies the metaphysical conundrum here.

Everyone will have their own voodoo pin to stick into this doll, but ultimately, her ability to help the student negotiate a very personal passage of self-awareness and acknowledgement should be based on professional, empirical and therapeutic considerations and not the world view she learned on grandpa's knee while spitting tobacco off the porch.

If she can't do this, then she needs to counsel gerbils at the humane society.

25. metrotima - July 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

@dashwood - Even if we were to accept your premise that Ms. Ward should have been allowed to pass the client off to another counselor, what kind of world are you imagining where this would be an option in a high school counseling environment? Most schools are lucky if they have ONE full-time counselor, and often two or more schools share one practitioner. It wouldn't be morally or legally viable for a school to employ a counselor like Ms. Ward who already knew she was unwilling to treat homosexual clients, or simply young people who needed someone to talk to about their questions about sexual orientation in an open way (and, from experience, let me tell you that's one of the most common things that troubled youth want to talk about!). I guess one option would be a conservative private Christian school? Maybe that's what Ms. Ward was planning. However, if that's the case, she should probably be going to seminary of some kind. You can't get a degree and licensing from a program accredited by the ACA and not practice according to their guidelines in the same way that it is fundamentally inhumane, immoral and contrary to the credentials you present to get a medical degree and then not abide by the Hippocratic oath and other guidelines laid out by licensing organizations.

26. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 10:14 am

@profpsych: I think you're referring to private practice and those dealing with adults. Ms. Ward wanted to be a high school counselor, which means she would not have had the luxury of specializing in any way, nor the would all students have had the luxury of knowing ahead of time that their issue would turn out to be homosexuality.

27. jffoster - July 28, 2010 at 10:21 am

Kleptomania is either a choice or a genetic disease or disorder, but the practice of kleptomania is, at least in part, a choice. Some types of diabetes are almost certainly at least partly a genetic disease/disorder. But eating too many candy bars is a choice. Are counselors now going to be required to engage in "learning to counsel all clients within their own value systems.?"

Probably not. Homosexuality is either a genetic disease/disorder or a choice, or both, but the practice of it is a choice. But in the crazy upside down world we live in now, it is a politically correct disorder ~ choice and the others are not.

28. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 10:22 am

@profpsych: And to your challenge that the more tolerant among us need to learn to tolerate the intolerant, it is misplaced in this case. It is self-destructive to tolerate intolerance in institutions and professions designed to serve all equally and fairly, such as high schools and therapy.

29. moonwalker - July 28, 2010 at 10:22 am

Counseling is not about the affirmation or dispproval of anyone's way of life. In fact counselors are taught to not provide their own opinions of a client's behavior. The counselor is meant to help the client analyze his/her own situation to come up with solutions for themselves. The counselor helps the client recognize options and different paths in their life that they (the client) have the power and control to find fo rthemselves.This is an essential skill that students in a counseling program need to learn before a school can sign off on them as having successfully completed the program.
having said that, once a counselor gets into a job they must work within the confines of that organization. If they are working at their own orivate practice they can turn away any clients they want. But if they work at a high school they need to be able to put the client first. That may mean after an initial converstaion referring the client to someone else because a different counselor may be a better fit. But as a student, a counselor must challenge their own beliefs (not refute them just ask them selves the same questions they might ask of a client). That's part of the learning process. So although I don't think the student in question should have to change her beliefs, she did have to participate in the educational exercise assigned to her.
She made a choice not to do so, and that was her right. But choices have consequences. And in my opinion the school was right to hold her accountable for her choice.

30. honore - July 28, 2010 at 10:22 am

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31. honore - July 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

Seriously now...let's look at this at a micro level.

A depressed, upset student walks into the counseling service looking for support and guidance or maybe just a little humanity from a world that will be all-too quick to slap her down and what does she encounter?

A self-righteous clown in "counselor" drag reaching for a tattered bible in her "celebrate diversity" backpack. The absurdity of this scenario is just too much to not laugh at.

Good riddance to the "counselor".

32. sisyphus93 - July 28, 2010 at 10:31 am

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33. scubagrrl88 - July 28, 2010 at 10:34 am

This is an interesting case, and I certainly have compassion for both sides: Ms. Ward, the attorneys representing her and the university, the judge, etc. I will not write about what is right and what is wrong. Though, I will say that in my own world, I believe we are all One, and to proclaim that one is 'against' something is to argue for separation. When there is duality and separation, it is difficult at best to affirm compassion and love for one another. Many of my brothers and sisters out there hold fast and steady to their views that they are right and others are wrong. I feel a lot of compassion for them. I do hope some day that not only Ms. Ward but individuals represented here in this stream of heated commentary will see the light and realize that at the core of it all is Love and the we are all One in this together. What is often at the base of duality and separation is FEAR--fear of death, whether that is physical death or death of the ego. Ms. Ward could not let go of her religious convictions that homosexuality is wrong for her religion represents her, or a part of her anyway. Her ego. To sacrifice that is to lose everything. I say let go of that. Once ego dissolves, which I know is a TALL order in academe, whether among students and faculty, one allows for compassion and an appreciation of all beings.

I practice this daily in all of my activities, in my teaching, with my students in advising, with my colleagues. To see each person as a unique expression of God, Love, Joy, whatever you want to call it, is an awesome feeling. There is no judgment, no separation, no hierarchy of 'my view is better than yours and you are going to hell,' and all of the crap. Though I am a woman in what society would label a 'lesbian' relationship (well, we DO need a language to maneuver our way through this crazy world of ours), I choose not to label myself anything other than One, One who sees the divinity and beauty in all people. I bless Ms. Ward on her path and her journey and wish her the best. All things happen for a reason, and perhaps someday she may see this decision as supporting her in her path to find something that is in line with her life intentions.

34. tbdiscovery - July 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

I'm wondering if the supporters of this decision would feel the same about a Muslim woman who chose (or did she?) to wear a burqua or a Muslim Man a beard while counseling, and such was forbidden. Or, what if a counselor refused to counsel an individual in a burqa? Oh the humanity!

It's a shame that ideology has manhandled our emotions.

35. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 10:42 am

@tbdiscovery: I don't follow your logic. How does a woman wearing a burqua or a Muslim man wearing a beard say anything about negative about any potential client?

Now if those same people said they couldn't treat Christians because they're the devil's spawn, then I would still advocate their removal from the program... and I suspect many like you would want them removed from the country.

36. dank48 - July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am

This is doubtless a difficult lesson for Ms. Ward, but perhaps she will come to realize that "what the Bible says" doesn't mean "my personal prejudices and opinions." Out of a typical thousand-page Bible, all the verses in the OT and NT that even mention homosexuality, if put together, add up to about half a page if you start each one on a new line. Ms. Ward is not the only person who thinks the most important part of the Bible is that 0.05% of it, ignoring the other 99.95%. Especially Matt. 7:1.

37. 22174061 - July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am

jffoster writes: "Homosexuality is either a genetic disease/disorder or a choice, or both". What's your evidence for such a preposterous claim?

You must also believe that being left-handed is a disease/disorder, and the awkward way that many lefties sign their names is a choice. You must believe that being unusually tall is a disease/disorder, and such people sometimes bump their heads on low-hanging objects because they choose to. Being gay or lesbian may be different from being straight, but the scientific evidence doesn't indicate there is any more to this difference than being left-handed rather than right-handed, or tall rather than short.

38. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 10:47 am

To be clear: Yes, if a student said she couldn't counsel an individual in a burqua I would support her removal from the program. And I would not support forbidding a burqua or a beard in the counseling process. Irrelevant. What IS relevant is open-mindedness.

39. tbdiscovery - July 28, 2010 at 11:23 am

The burqa or Muslim beard is symbolic of the commitment to place religious identity first, and thus it brings one's beliefs and worldviews to work. If counselors are to be truly sympathetic to clients and thus separate personal beliefs from professional practice, then surely external appearances based solely on religious identity are more damning to the client than a counselor who actively seeks to pass along a client - and thus recognizes her bias.

40. betbezej - July 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

This is neither about the suppression of freedom of speech or religious rights-

The relevant issue is that the student rejected a basic component of the curriculum. All fields of study proceed from a set of assumptions from which the study proceeds and it is essential to either accept those assumptions, or to challenge them using the tools and method of inquiry of the field. For example, if someone who, accepting a literal interpretation of the Bible, believed that the world was created in seven days, s/he would not be well-suited to earn a degree in geology since that field starts with a set of assumptions based upon a different age of the earth. Furthermore, those assumptions were created using the scientific method of inquiry. If the student wanted to stay in the field and use the scientific method of inquiry to hypothesize a different theory about the age of the earth, that would be acceptable discourse. However, if the method of "inquiry" was the faith of the student, this is unacceptable as "faith" is the belief of something in the absence of proof, and the scientific method of inquiry is based differently.

Likewise, if a student wanted to complete a program in reparative therapy, they would have to accept that program's basic assumptions (E.g. homosexuality is a choice that can be changed, the Christian bible is the authorative text for determining right and wrong behavior). If the student wanted to successfully complete the program, s/he could not use the scientific method of inquiry or research accepted by the APA as a reason to not try and change a gay man straight because the student held that that information was correct. The student would either be failed out of the program or dismissed.

41. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 11:41 am

@tbdiscovery: You're confused. No one is saying she cannot, for example, wear a huge cross if she wanted to. She could even have a gigantic bible on her desk. That's not the issue. The issue is that she is specifically saying that she cannot work with people who are homosexual, which is part of her job description. Thus, she is not qualified. It's that simple.

You seem to suggest that being Christian at least implies homophobia, but I know not only of gay Christians but gay-friendly churches that proudly fly the rainbow flag! I've seen other variations on this theme, like crosses on rainbow backgrounds and rainbow-colored crosses.

Similarly, I don't think many people would be so quick, like you clearly are, to think that because a therapist is a Muslim man wearing a beard or a woman wearing a burqua that it means anything about how they are going to treat me or even think of me.

42. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 11:48 am

@tbdiscovery, con't: If I were to walk into a therapist's office and found a Muslim man wearing a beard or a woman wearing a burqua, I would assume that they are qualified to talk to me about whatever is bothering me because I will assume that they have been trained to do so. If I find, however, that they are pushing a religious agenda or judging my actions according to their own moral codes, then I will report them and try to get their licenses revoked.

43. 22199179 - July 28, 2010 at 11:48 am

This young woman refused to help a student seeking assistance in dealing with DEPRESSION!!!! it just so happens that at one time the student had received some assistance related to homosexuality. How did Ms. Ward know that homosexuality was even still an issue for this student? And as a counseling student that should have been her focus....for all she knew, the subject of homosexuality might never have come up.

After grad school if she wanted to go work for a Christian High School and base her counseling on her christian belief systems....good for her. But as a Graduate Counseling Student...you don't get to do that!!!

44. dane13 - July 28, 2010 at 12:02 pm

@jffoster - I hope your post was intended as a joke. "The practice of homosexuality is a choice"?! You have GOT to be kidding. What, exactly, would you suggest people do? Consign themselves to an entire lifetime of celibacy and singleness because they were not born the way you are? Choose to have sex with people who repulse them, because YOU say it's the only way to be "right"? How ludicrous.

Go ahead, isolate and chastise yourself for a few years, and let us know how that works out for you.

And to compare homosexuality - which harms no one - to stealing and to a disease would be laughable if it were not so offensive. If you think this world is "crazy upside down," perhaps you could find a more suitable world...? Or, you and a few other like-minded folks could create your own, where everyone morphs into your strict rules of genetic composition.

45. mindful_psych - July 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

@walrus - I appreciate your thoughtful examples, which illustrate a clear dividing line between Ms. Ward's own practice and beliefs (which should be respected/tolerated) and her professional responsibilities.

46. balancement - July 28, 2010 at 12:31 pm

She can believe in any Invisible-Sky-Thingy-In-Charge she wants to, but this is *science* dealing with mental health. And to bring her mythology into the counseling room is unethical. If she cannot deal with diversity and the latest understandings of the APA, then she should pick another line of work that she is suited for. I hear McDonald's is hiring.

47. dashwood - July 28, 2010 at 01:21 pm

Jeremy Tedesco:
“Public universities are imposing the ideological stances of private groups on their students.”

48. vatican - July 28, 2010 at 01:24 pm

There is a bit of a double standard in some of the comments posted here. You cannot uphold one person's right while demonizing another person's right. This is what is called hypocrisy. Ms. Ward did the right thing by referring the person to another counselor who is able to assist. This behavior is praiseworthy. This may be difficult for non-believers to understand - Ms. Ward was simply exercising her religious beliefs, which had now been trampled. Sometimes people who hold strong religious convictions do think and behave in ways that are contrary to secular beliefs. Can't Ms. Ward and those who wish to exercise their religious convictions do so any more without being demonized? Again, I think there's a bit of hypocrisy here to think that just because her beliefs are not your beliefs, you are right and she is wrong. Give me a break!

49. 77777774444 - July 28, 2010 at 01:27 pm

For those who do believe in the bible and those who don't as well:

There are lots of comments about love and getting along which is great because that is the second commandment, but the first is to love God and probably the scripture that describes this the best is John 14:15 - "If ye love me, keep my commandments"

My take on this is that it means all the commandments. Not just the ones that are easy for me or for how God created me. All of them, period. I believe the bible sums up the commandments pretty well if you read the whole thing. But, nobody is perfect and we all get to decide whether to strive to keep them all or not. That is where the love and tolerance comes in.

50. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 01:32 pm

@vatican: Ms. Ward is choosing a secular profession (counseling) in a secular institution (public education). Nothing hypocritical about demanding that she behave accordingly.

51. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 01:35 pm

If I'm an atheist and I want to be a Catholic preacher, I cannot sue when I am kicked out for refusing to practice communion.

52. nickflair - July 28, 2010 at 01:36 pm

She believes something that is provably, demonstrably, objectively not true. It seems to me that this proves she is not rational enough to occupy any position of power or influence in a scientific field.

I am not talking about her intelligence - clearly, she is intelligent enough to pass her courses. I am not talking about her religion - I don't care about religion, so long as it is kept out of the public arena. I am talking about her personal beliefs and her refusal to do what was required to ensure her institution that she would be suitable as a counselor. Respect and tolerate her religion if you want; but her personal beliefs are intolerable. There is nothing inherently wrong with Islam, for example; its how some twisted individuals use Islam to justify hate and violence that is the problem.

Look at it another way: if she were a pedophile, and believed that sexual relations with children were appropriate, or if she were a racist, and believed that her race was inherently superior to any others, would you want her as a practicing counselor?

Psychology might be a "soft" science, but it is still science, and there is no place in science for refusing to accept provable fact.

This kind of ignorance and irrationality must be stamped out and denied where ever it is found. Bravo to the institution for attempting to keep this person from a position where she might do some real harm.

53. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 01:37 pm

Excuse me, Catholic priest. Nor should I be surprised if I am released as a Baptist minister if I refused to dunk people in water.

54. 22136164 - July 28, 2010 at 01:39 pm

No doubt Ms. Ward could separate her care/concern/Christian love for the student from the student's actions or beliefs. Her quarrel was that she was being asked to affirm the actions/beliefs.

55. vatican - July 28, 2010 at 01:40 pm

Can I also request atheists to keep their atheism out of the public sphere?

56. obtusegoose - July 28, 2010 at 01:43 pm

She CHOSE to be religious. If she actually thinks that the Bible (and her CHOSEN beliefs) should be used as a counseling tool, she picked the wrong profession.

There is an abundance of scientific research that all points to sexual orientation being an innate characteristic. Using your religious beliefs to excuse yourself from learning about this research is unacceptable, and unprofessional.

57. vatican - July 28, 2010 at 01:43 pm

The refusal to balance the two views simply shows that this society hasn't progressed as people think it has.

58. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 01:48 pm

@2216164: Get it straight. That she has to behave according to the accepted practices of her profession is not the same thing as saying she has to believe in all the actions she performs. There are many cops, for example, who do not believe marijuana should be illegal, but it is their job to arrest and book those who violate the laws against possession of the drug. This does not mean they "affirm" the criminalization of marijuana. There are many doctors who believe people who won't stop smoking should die, but it is their job to do what they can to save those same people. That does not believe they have to "affirm" smoking. It's a matter of her doing her job, which she refuses to do.

59. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 01:51 pm

@vatican: The public sphere? This has nothing to do with a public sphere. This has to do with her willingness to do what's required to be qualified for a certain profession.

60. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 01:53 pm

@vatican: We are advocating a balanced perspective. It's you who are trying to take us back to Puritanism or even the Crusades and the Dark Ages.

61. vatican - July 28, 2010 at 01:58 pm

Calling me names now instead of engaging in the debate?

62. vatican - July 28, 2010 at 01:59 pm

tsk tsk tsk

63. nickflair - July 28, 2010 at 02:02 pm

@vatican: Balancing two views has it's place - where those two views both have merit. There is no merit in an irrational view, and no shame in refusing to balance the irrational against the rational.

64. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 02:05 pm

@vatican: I think my response that distinguises between public sphere and professional qualifications is still unanswered.

65. 22136164 - July 28, 2010 at 02:08 pm

Walrus: The accepted praftices of her profession have changed as many times as has the DSM. A judge can recuse him or herself; why not a counselor?

66. vatican - July 28, 2010 at 02:17 pm

There is a problem in stating that both views have their merits and then arguing that one of the views is irrational while the other is rational. Go ahead and have the final word because I know there'll be more name callings just because I choose to support Ms. Ward's decision in this particular circumstance. It's funny and interesting to see how people seem to suggest that just because I choose a particular position I'm automatically taking every one back to "Puritanism or even the Crusades and the Dark Ages". I don't even care if Ms. Ward is professing a belief in aliens. The fact is that she in her conscience referred the case and that should be it.

67. 22174061 - July 28, 2010 at 02:28 pm

@22136164, as I and others have noted, counseling in the secular world (e.g., a public school) is supposed to be based on science. Scientific views (e.g., on the nature of homosexuality) change over time as the weight of the evidence changes, giving science a good basis to guide professional work but (because it changes over time) making it a lousy guide for religious practice. The Bible has changed little, if at all, for thousands of years, making it a good basis for religious practice but a lousy source for scientific knowledge in today's world.

68. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 02:28 pm

Yes. And the fact is that proves she's unqualified to do the job, as proven now in a court of law. Your refusal to honor the profession's right to establish qualifications or the court's prerogative to affirm or deny that right proves that you think your religious beliefs should over-ride those considerations. Therefore, a comparison with puritanism or the Crusades is perfectly apt.

69. nickflair - July 28, 2010 at 02:31 pm

@vatican: First, this is not about you.
Second, it was not stated that both views have merit. What was stated was that IF both views have merit, then attempting to balance them is valid; but if one of the views is irrational (i.e.: the view that homosexuality is a choice), then it has no merit and cannot and should not be balanced against a rational view. The main point speaks to the idea of "tolerance," which is often pointed to in order to allow views with no merit equal consideration to views that have merit in an attempt to "balance" them. Tolerance has its place, but it is not universally valid; the irrational and merit-less should be rejected and not tolerated.

70. stinkcat - July 28, 2010 at 02:33 pm

If a pregnant woman goes to a doctor and says she wants an abortion must he or she affirm the decision and perform the abortion or may the doctor inform the patient that such a procedure is against his or her beliefs and to procure an abortion the patient will have to go elsewhere?

71. 2catmama - July 28, 2010 at 02:41 pm

@vatican and others who support Ms. Ward.

Are you saying that you honestly don't see the problem with a high school counselor being able to just refuse to counsel a child--for whatever reason? If she got hired at Public School A and John the sophomore made an appointment to see her and she discovered he was gay, what would she do? Refuse to see him? If so, what would he do? Go without services. And you truly see nothing wrong with that?

72. nickflair - July 28, 2010 at 02:43 pm

@stinkcat: Not the same thing.
First, this is a case where both views actually have some merit - whether abortion is appropriate or not can be argued from several sides, and all rationally. So it is entirely possible and valid that the doctor may have professional or even personal beliefs against performing one.

But, if that doctor CHOSE to train in the procedure and then to work in a hospital or clinic specializing in abortions, or if his personal views against abortion are irrational, then I would think that this would create a problem.

73. stinkcat - July 28, 2010 at 02:56 pm

"or if his personal views against abortion are irrational"

Is this a code word for religiously based views?

74. nickflair - July 28, 2010 at 03:12 pm

No code involved.

Going back to the original topic for a second, and as other posters have noted, there are plenty of people who are religious and are accepting of homosexuality as an intrinsic state. The counseling student's views that homosexuality is a choice are irrational and provably wrong - they only HAPPEN to be based in her interpretation of her religion.

Coming back to your example, there are, of course religiously-based objections to abortion, but plenty of other concerns about abortion for reasons having nothing to do with any religious perspectives. For example, if the doctor believed that his oath to "do no harm" extended to abortion, that could be an arguably valid and rational viewpoint. If, however, he believed that he would be haunted by the angry ghosts of aborted fetuses, then that is irrational and invalid.

75. 22136164 - July 28, 2010 at 03:15 pm

If I were challenging a court's decision or a profession's code on anything other than this issue, would the tone of your remarks change? In fact, if I were one of your students who was questioning either of the aforementioned instituions' guidling principles, would you think me novel or would you consign me to the Crusades?

76. dane13 - July 28, 2010 at 03:22 pm

Religious people in this thread:

Please explain to us why religious views should be allowed to supersede the requirements of a non-religious profession.

All your arguments boil down to saying that Julea Ward should be allowed to impose her beliefs upon her profession--to act against the REQUIREMENTS of her profession (high school counselor) because she wants to. Instead, shouldn't she choose a profession that would accommodate her religious beliefs?

77. dane13 - July 28, 2010 at 03:23 pm

"The counseling association does permit referrals, but they are supposed to be for the good of the client, not for the comfort of the counselor. Typically, a referral that would be seen as legitimate might involve a counselor referring someone to a colleague with expertise on a particular problem."


78. walrus - July 28, 2010 at 03:30 pm

Ah, I see, 22136164. Can't deal with the argument so going to focus on a trivial detail to get worked up over. For the record: My students can take it. They know me.

However, if you're so hurt about that little comment made on a CHE board, can you imagine how a child who came to you for help would feel if you said to their face, "Sorry, I can't help you because I truly believe you're going to burn in hell."

Go ahead. Keep playing the victim.

79. dank48 - July 28, 2010 at 04:12 pm

Pace Obtusegoose, I don't think it's true (fair, reasonable, etc.) to say that Ms. Ward or anyone else chooses to be religious, any more than one chooses to be irreligious, straight, or gay. Our beliefs are not subject to our will. For example, I can't decide that I'll believe in God today and be an atheist tomorrow. Religious belief is no more a choice than sexual orientation is.

Having said which, it seems to me Ms. Ward did choose to train for a profession incompatible with her religious beliefs and for some reason thought she could pick and choose which parts of it to accept and which to reject. This seems not at all unlike the way some (but by not means all or even most) Christians want to pick and choose which parts of the Bible are "still" God's law and which can be cheerfully ignored. To say homosexuality is wrong because it's against God's will as expressed in the Bible is not ipso facto inconsistent. But to do so while blithely eating pork, eating shellfish, eating meat and dairy together, wearing clothes made of blended fibers, moving field markers, working on the Sabbath . . . Sorry, that's hypocrisy. And while Jesus of Nazareth never got around to commenting on homosexuality, I believe he did have some pretty pointed remarks about liars and hypocrits.

80. duchess_of_malfi - July 28, 2010 at 04:28 pm

I agree with others that the key is the "reasonable person's" interpretation whether this job requirement endorses or disapproves of religion. It really would be stretching the decision to interpret it as an affirmation of science over religion, as some have suggested.

It doesn't look good for the student suing Augusta State, does it? In that case, like this one, the student refused to complete a requirement of the program.

Do these students genuinely not know what they're doing when they enroll in these programs, or are these cases planned from the start?

81. marvchron - July 28, 2010 at 04:38 pm

I see two difficulties here. First, the judge seems to be saying that it's reasonable for a person to have beliefs as long as they do not influence the person's practices. What is the point of believing something if it does not inform the person's practice?
Second, the idea that one counselor must be able to handle all situations is a fiction and certainly is not followed in practice. Counseling has its specialties like all disciplines. Many counselors refer a client to someone else after an initial session because they realize that their attitudes and skill set are not appropriate for the case at hand. Why is Ms. ward's situation any different from such a scenario?
Judging by her academic performance, Ms. Ward has mastered much of what is needed to become an effective counselor. Her problem seems to be that she has violated the university's litmus test for what it means to be open-minded. She is clearly being dismissed (and belittled) for her beliefs. There are a host of other ways her situation could have been handled which would not have led to this unfortunate conclusion where a well qualified student is dismissed from a program because of political correctness.

82. glroyal - July 28, 2010 at 04:52 pm

I am a Christian, and I have a degree in counseling and quite frankly I can agree with a number of the comments made on both sides of this scenario.
Kudos should be given to Ms. Ward for her ability to identify her own biases. That is what a good program should do. As counselors we all need to recognize those areas (which do not have to be associated to sexual orientation) which we may have some challenge with. By doing so we can be better prepared to work through those areas whether they be cultural, emotional, spiritual of otherwise. The program and the young woman both were able to identify a part of her-self that would challenge her, and that is a positive thing.
The problem comes in to play when she turns away (or "refers") a student based on her beliefs. The counseling relationship is not about the counselor - it is about the client, and we should not instruct a client about what is right or wrong in any situation. That relationship is about facilitating a discussion where they are able to create their own resolutions to their issues. We do not have to agree with the resolution that they create for themselves, but rather help them explore all aspects of their situation and help them find the best resolution for them.
Any of you scholars who are familiar with transformational learning might identify that this young woman is one who has not had the experience yet, where she is able to move beyond her simplistic duality of thinking, and realized that in many cases in life there is more than simply right and wrong. She also has yet to learn that that kind of judgment has no place in a public counseling relationship.
There is a place for her, however. There are countless institutions where she can earn a master's in Biblical counseling where she can be assured that her spiritual beliefs would be inline with what she aspires to do as a profession. (As a caveat, she should be cautious about what program she chooses because as some of you have stated there are a number of Christians based programs that would also consider her conduct inappropriate.)
For what it matters, I think that the court made the appropriate decision in reference to this case. The directive that I was given from the Bible was to love and to reserve judgment for God. That is how I choose to live and serve all of my students.

83. 2catmama - July 28, 2010 at 04:59 pm


How well qualified is Ms. Ward? She chose a program accredited by a body whose ethics do not match hers? At what point in her graduate career was she going to check that out? A straight A student who can't/didn't read an ethics code? Scary.


I wonder the same thing. Either Ms. Ward chose to enter a program knowing it did not match her beliefs with the intention to file a suit just like this one or she did not research the program beforehand. I don't know which is worse.

84. dane13 - July 28, 2010 at 05:35 pm

@glroyal - thanks. Nicely stated, thorough, and clear from a practitioner's POV.

85. edukat99 - July 28, 2010 at 05:44 pm

oh my goodness. . .Educators, give it up. Those who support Ms Ward will never ever H E A R your points/argument. Those of you trying to explain the non-negotiable "requirements" of the graduate counseling program are articulate, rational, and quite intelligent, while those supporting Ms Ward's position respond in a circular and unresponsive manner.

Give it up. . .it's the world they operate in. . .educators are analytical and disect arguments rationally. We have to live in a world that is responsible and ethical. Those citing a bible/religious beliefs will always hear "blah, blah, blah", because they believe they already know the answer. Review the circular conversation they present and the points they ignore.

86. jcisneros - July 28, 2010 at 06:42 pm

What is most distressing about this is the young lady does not acknowledge that she has any responsibility in this affair at all. It is poor ground for a counselor to stand on to only deal with matters that she is perosnally comfortable with.

I understand the religious point of view she espouses, but I do not respect the lack of understanding she fundamentally displays. What if I, as a future professor claim that I am uncomfortable teaching religious fundamentalists? The fact of my discomfort remains, but as a professional educator I am both professionally required and ethically bound to teach every student in my courses to the best of my ability, regardless of how offended I may be. To expect otherwise would result in my being denied tenure or be outright dismissed. Choices have consequences, Ms. Ward made a choice...now she is seeing the consequences.

It is regrettable that her worldview does not allow her personal beliefs to be challenged in any way. Both the University and the legal system made a tough, but fair call.


87. obtusegoose - July 28, 2010 at 06:51 pm

dank48: You're implying that people are born religious. That simply isn't true. I was brought up in a non-religious household, and didn't have any idea about religion or God until I was in my teens. The odds are that Ms. Ward was "indoctrinated" into religion by her parents... as most children are. With parental peer-pressure, a child is virtually unable to not-choose to be religious. It most assuredly is forced upon them at a young age.

If Ms. Ward believed in voodoo, would she have the right to use voodoo dolls and magic spells to cure a gay person instead of a psychologically approved course of action? Of course not. -- Leviticus (supposedly) calls for the death of gay people. The bible also endorses the stoning of people. Perhaps that would be one of her recommendations to a gay student. Isn't that what one should expect from a someone who says that they can't "go against what the Bible says"? Or does Ms. Ward get to pick and chose which passages to follow?

88. honore - July 28, 2010 at 07:09 pm

Can someone please post her job description, especially the part that says...

"You may reserve the right to deny our services to any student of your choice based on your alleged beliefs based on the bible, tea leaves at the bottom of your tea cup, last night's seance or a message from your dead cat"

Bottom line, to deny a CHILD, the services that s/he is seeking (and very likely in the throes of torturous teen-age angst") is INCONSCIONABLE!!! Is the astronomic suicide rate of teen-age LGBT&Q individuals lost on HER? Lost on the counseling center?

We don't need a national association "code", a court of law or the "interpretatioins of colleagues" (including me) to interpret HUMAN from INHUMAN behavior. For Ms. Ward to deny this student her services is the ultimate in personal savagery, bigotry and brutality.


I can only hope she doesn't become an Emergency Medical Technician speeding to an accident scene involving a young lady with short hair that she deems as a "lesbian" and jumps back into the ambulance to speed away.

89. mal1000 - July 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Re: post #3 and post #32 (deleted by moderator) from sysyphus93.

From a psychological framework (regardless of religious background or attitude towards homosexuality), a very revealing pseudonym.

I wonder if sysyphus93 realizes how much sysyphus93 is revealing about him/her self?

90. ravewulf - July 29, 2010 at 02:59 am

Funny how conservatives against gay marriage and gay rights tell us to "think of the children" when all evidence says they will be just as fine in a gay family as in a straight family, etc and yet when it comes to a prospective *HIGH SCHOOL COUNCELOR* they defend her in not being able to properly do her job in helping gay kids or any kid who comes to her regarding gay issues.

High school can be one of the most difficult environments to be different in any way, and with most gays these days coming out in high school or younger, it would be very troubling, even criminal, to have a counselor who would put her personal beliefs above their wellbeing. And how is she supposed to be able to help other kids accept classmates that are gay? Would she instead contribute to vilifying the gay students?

Can you imagine the effect that would have on the student body as a whole, gay students in general, and especially students who are questioning their sexuality or who are coming out and really need support? Those are truly scary thoughts.

Anyone who is unable to abide by the ethics rules set in place should never be allowed in this profession.

91. epiccollision - July 29, 2010 at 05:03 am

the concept is very simple people>beliefs...i don't care what silly fairy tales you have to tell yourself to get through the day... when those beliefs are the justification to belittle or infringe on an persons rights and freedoms then your beliefs cannot be used a shield to justify your actions... any protections you have to believe in "whatever" evaporates at that point and you are liable morally and legally...deal with itm or pray...see how that works out for you

92. jaysanderson - July 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm

According to the Chronicle story, the counseling student didn't try to convert the homosexual student, or in any way treat her/him poorly or unprofessionally.

"she asked her faculty supervisor whether she could refer the client to another counselor, explaining (to her supervisor) that her religious views precluded her from doing anything to affirm the client's homosexual behavior"

That seems to have been a reasonable, professional solution to a difficult problem. No indication that the student tried to convert anyone, as is suggested by many comments above. This is about the homosexual political agenda, which has come to be less about acceptance and more about mandatory support, agreement, and validation.

Interesting how the Constitution seems to be getting in the way of those who seek to promote certain radical agendas. I can't help but wonder how long our individual rights will remain.

93. rationalthinker - July 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I am struck by how many commentators can't see past the immediacy of the politics to the ramifications of the entire situation.

Had Ms. Ward lied about her biases, she likely would have completed her graduate program and would have been free to counsel gay students according to the dictates of her own beliefs. (How effective and/or damaging would that counseling have been?) Instead, Ms. Ward chose to act in a manner congruent with her beliefs and was punished for doing so.

The obvious message sent by the university to prospective counselors is this: If you harbor a politically unpopular bias, you'd better shut up about it, because we are steeped in a delusional belief system which holds that counselors can and do operate completely without bias in the real world. The university's apparent conviction that its "remediation plan" would be sufficient to change deeply held personal beliefs is further evidence of a shared delusional system, and illustrates the glaring disconnect between those who live in ivory academic towers and those who practice in the real world.

For every single "Ms. Ward," how many counselors are there who have completed their graduate programs without sufficiently acknowledging or exploring (let alone changing) their biases for fear of an outcome similar to the one Ms. Ward experienced? Ms. Ward might as well have been tried for heresy during the Inquisition.

The counseling community has long valued conformity with a politically expedient value set over an honest dialog about the nature and intransigence of human bias. This is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, but before we skewer Ms. Ward for harboring alien attitudes, we owe it to ourselves to acknowledge the rigidity of our own collective beliefs. Imposing these beliefs on others inhibits the academic honesty that should be an integral part of counselor development, and models the opposite of what an effective counselor does for his or her client.

94. vatican - July 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Ssssh don't call this a homosexual agenda or contradict Walrus, otherwise s/he'll start calling you names as well.

95. stinkcat - July 29, 2010 at 01:22 pm

So the question really is, must every legal behavior of a client be validated and affirmed? So if a local KKK member is depressed because he was not made the leader of his group, the counselor must validate and affirm his KKK efforts no matter how morally repugnent they may be?

96. nickflair - July 29, 2010 at 01:45 pm

Again, not the same thing.

In the original case, Ms. Ward refered a student who came to her for depression. The student's homosexuality was - as far as we know - an unrelated factor that SHE took issue with and was not why he sought counseling. She, unable to separate the case from her issues, she refered the student. She was not required to validate and affirm his homosexuality in order to treat his depression.

In your example, the KKK member is also depressed, though in a directly related manner to his morally repugnant goals. Even here, it may be possible to treat his mental state - depression - without needing to validate and affirm his KKK affiliation.

I think the question here is whether it is necessary for a counselor to validate and affirm ANYTHING in order to effectively render treatment. For example, if I go to counseling because I am having sexual issues with a mistress, I don't expect to receive treatment based on my counselor's personal feelings about adultery. I am not looking for their affirmation or validation of my values. I don't care what they feel about our value differences, and I shouldn't be confronted by that. I just want them to treat the issue - without their own personal feelings getting involved.

97. katisumas - July 29, 2010 at 01:56 pm

To 14, Dashwood, most schools have only a single counselor. Teenagers who have to come to grip with their sexual orientation are in a very fragile state. The rate of gay teen suicides is higher than other teen suicides, but all teens need a good conselor because it's a rough period of time for everyone.

No kid "choses" to be gay, teens as a rule are devastated when they realize they're "different", so they need all the help they can get.

I do not want my taxes to pay for high school conselors and public schools and public university training programs for conselors who are not able to treat all students.

98. katisumas - July 29, 2010 at 02:00 pm

To 48, Vatican. No, the conseling student wasn't allowed to refer her client to another student conselor because she was participating in a practicum! That is to earn that license from a tax supported public institution in order to teach at a public high school where in all likelihood she would be the only conselor available to students, she needed practice and the curriculum called for her practice to be reviewed.

99. pgepps - July 29, 2010 at 02:03 pm

Would not tactfully requesting that the client be given a referral to another counselor pretty much be the very definition of "toleration"? She recognized that the situation would create conflict, and dealt with it professionally.

A religion which cannot be freely exercised, which has no real-world consequences, is not worth believing--and is not what our Constitution protects.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" ( http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am1 )

100. katisumas - July 29, 2010 at 02:07 pm

to 12, ajkphd< I love your post, particularly the potential refusal to consel a shrimp cocktail user.

I too have noticed that so called fundamentalists are anything but. I haven't seen any of them sacrificing a turtle dove every Saturday as ordered in Leviticus.... I also noticed that so many right wing Christians are quoting from Leviticus about 20 times more than they're quoting from the New Testament (just simply listen to such a sermon and note the references in separate columns --you'd be amazed how short the one with the New Testament references one ends up being!)

101. katisumas - July 29, 2010 at 02:09 pm

To 95, Stinkat, of course what were we thinking! Local chapters of the KKK always look to a fourteen year old high school student for leadership!

However, that kid does deserve counseling all the same, even though being member of the KKK is a choice and being gay is not (actually this whole discussion hinges on this issue)

102. tskogseth - July 29, 2010 at 03:47 pm

The bottom line is this: A client comes to a counselor and asks for help with depression. The counselor says, "sorry, but because you are a homosexual, I cannot help you - although I know someone else who can." The counselor is rejecting a client who is in a fragile mental state. In this case it is not relevant whether the depression was related to the homosexuality or not - the client is still being rejected. If this is a severe enough depression, it could include suicidal ideation. A rejection in this instance could be devastating (and no, clients will not always admit to being suicidal on intake forms - it will often require a level of trust). However, Ms. Ward found her own comfort more important than her client's well being, and that can never be acceptable.

103. dank48 - July 29, 2010 at 04:54 pm

Obtusegoose, you've misread what I wrote. The point is that neither one's beliefs nor one's sexual orientation is a matter of choice. For example, I might say, in a misleading idiom, "I've changed my mind about that," as if it were something that I've consciously, deliberately done of my own free will. (Let's sidestep the question of free will for now. Please.) In fact, it would be more accurate to say, "My mind has changed about that." I mean, I can't choose to believe A today and not-A tomorrow. The reasons for belief are manifold, and environment is of course a very important factor.

I brought this point up only to give Ms. Ward the benefit of the shadow of a doubt. As a matter of fact, I pretty much agree with the rest of what you said. Frankly, I think Ms. Ward, like the rest of us, is perfectly entitled to believe whatever she believes. It's when she gets to the point when she wants the rest of the world, including the circumstances of her course, practicum, and eventual profession, to yield to her beliefs that she gets in trouble.

Ms. Ward, for reasons I can't imagine, has chosen an inappropriate profession for a person whose religious beliefs are so rigid. I know I harp on this excessively, but it's not totally disanalogous to my daughter's situation. She is 23, and she's interested in early childhood education. She's done her practicums, and it's working out well. Had my daughter chosen instead to go into musical education, however, there would have been a problem, since she's profoundly deaf. Fortunately, she's not blind to the truth, as Ms. Ward is.

Ms. Ward needs to find a line of work where she can exercise her right to her beliefs without violating the rights of others to be treated like human beings. Aside from the verse about how none are so blind and deaf as those who will not see or hear, Ms. Ward ought to check out the one about doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.

I'd bet that if a gay counselor had ever told Ms. Ward that he or she couldn't deal with a religious extremist, she'd have raised hell.

104. otdoctor - July 29, 2010 at 05:21 pm

Just an FYI for sisyphus93: The word abberancy does not exist. Correct grammar would be abberation or abberant behavior. Precision is helpful if you want others to see the merit in your opinions.

105. altacharo - July 29, 2010 at 07:07 pm

Sometimes it can be illuminating to turn a situation on its head and ask how it might be resolved. Imagine, for example, a counseling student who is an atheist and who is seeing a high school student who is in distress about a family or financial situation, and who speaks about how he prays and prays but gets no answers and no relief. Given that some atheists not only do not believe in a supernatural being, but also feel that this kind of belief undermines rational thought or leads to violence and warfare, might our student counselor refuse to treat the high school student, as it would affirm a religious lifestyle? If this sounds ridiculous, then it says something about how to view the situation described in this case.

106. 22174061 - July 29, 2010 at 07:29 pm

Yes, I'd say your scenario is pretty ridiculous, altacharo. First and foremost, counselors have compassion and want to help people recover from distress and misfortune, so the last thing most counselors would do is refuse all help to someone like you describe, no matter what the client's level of religiosity.There are many options to talk about that have nothing to do with prayer or religion, such as support and other non-monetary resources available to the student and the family, practical choices (new things the student could do to help himself and the situation - getting a part-time job, helping more around the house, even having the client talk to a religious or spiritual mentor if that made sense), and so on. In my experience, even athiest counselors are not at all offended by a client who seeks help using prayer or other religious endeavors. The most important thing is the client's recovery and well-being. This is the point that was obviously lost on Ms. Ward.

107. 22174061 - July 29, 2010 at 08:30 pm

A few final thoughts, altacharo, if you don't mind: counseling should be individualized as much as possible to revolve entirely around issues specific to the client - his or her background, attitudes, preferences, expectations, fears, and so on -- to a degree that over time the depth of the counselor's understanding of the client comes to transcend superficial characteristics like the client's height, weight, gender, race, age, religion, and so on. The counselor now understands the client as the unique individual he or she is, and the client can sense the unique and very valuable nature of their relationship as well. It doesn't always work this way, but when it does this is what makes counseling different from friendship, coaching, mentoring, self-help books, and so on (and why many counselors are well worth the modest fees they typically charge). With that in mind, here's a scenario that I'm not sure I've seen discussed in the many comments posted here. Suppose Ms. Ward wins on appeal, receives her counseling degree from EMU, and takes a job with a school system or other public service agency. She begins working with a young male client, and after many weeks of regular sessions the counseling relationship has covered all manner of problems and deepened and intensified to the point where the young man finally trusts Ms. Ward enough to bring up, for the first time, what's really bothering him the most -- profound distress over his sexual attraction to other males. NOW what does Ms. Ward do? From what she's quoted as saying in the news report there's every indication that she would see no other option but throwing this client under the bus -- referring him to someone else he's probably never met and would have to start all over with (if he retained any trust at all in counseling at that point). In my experience this delayed discovery of the real problem is a very plausible scenario, and dropping a vulnerable client like a hot potato at that point is really anathema to counselors. If you try to say "Well, in that very special case Ms. Ward might just decide to keep working with that young man" then the obvious response from many of us would be "Exactly! And she can keep her misgivings about homosexuality sufficiently under wraps to work with other people too, right from the beginning and regardless of what their issues are."

108. 22258596 - July 30, 2010 at 07:23 am

This is simply an accreditation and credentialing issue. The institution has designed a program with certain learning outcomes. The outcomes and program design satisfy the requirements of the discipline-specific accreditation body. The earned credential attests to the satisfaction of these requirements. Further, the requirements are determined over time by other credentialed peers in the discipline. That entire process in turn gives credibility to the credential holder. Not so complicated. If a credential candidate wants to avoid satisfying certain required learning outcomes, she should enroll in an unaccredited program -- and stand in the unemployment line. Her choice is clear.So is the credentialing institution's.

109. patriotpaul - July 30, 2010 at 07:36 am

This is not changing ones beliefs. This is requiring a person using public tax-payer facilities to comply with normally accepted facts on homosexuality and how one best helps a person in need such as closeted gay kids who may be suicidal.

Would you allow a doctor or nurse to not treat gays and lesbians because they don't agree with homosexuality?

Would you allow pharmacists to NOT dispense AIDS drugs because they think homosexuality is immoral? Would you allow pharmacist to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions because they believe women's bodies are the property of God?

Would you allow a culinary student at a public school to refuse to cook and/or serve meat because this may violate their religious beliefs about being a vegetarian?

Would you allow stores open to the public to refuse to serve black people because their religious beliefs may say that blacks should be second class citizens?

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"

110. stinkcat - July 30, 2010 at 08:18 am

Would you allow physicians not to perform abortions?

111. supertatie - July 30, 2010 at 08:40 am

There are a number of things that bother me about these stories, and it strikes me that some important issues related to religious belief in one's profession are not being addressed.

1. The primary responsibility each Christian has is for his or her own life - to conduct it according to biblical principles, and to be a witness for others.

2. A Christian's decision about how to behave PROFESSIONALLY depends in large part upon what their job requires, and how they interpret God's admonitions about "witnessing." In other words (as one poster noted), would a Christian doctor refuse to perform surgery on an injured person because he or she was homosexual? (Though how they would know that, escapes me.) That seems doubtful to me, as I cannot come up with any biblical passage which would ask that of a believer, and even more importantly, there are many, many biblical passages (particularly the New Testament teachings of Christ) which would counsel to the contrary - alleviating suffering, etc. If one takes Christ as one's role model, He never failed to point out people's sins, but He healed them nevertheless.

Refusing to perform certain medical services would only be required of a Christian if doing so would make one complicit in an evil - such as performing an abortion. A Christian gynecologist has no legal obligation to perform an abortion, cannot be compelled to perform abortions, and can fully perform his or her designated and licensed duties AND adhere to his or her beliefs without doing abortions.

That said, would a Christian doctor choose to work in an abortion clinic? I don't think so.

3. A high school counselor's job is to counsel students. I'd imagine that a lot of students' issues relate to sexuality -- and not just homosexual orientation. There would be the "Should I have sex with this person?" questions, questions related to contraception, possibly instances of date rape, issues related to sexual abuse in a student's past, etc. There are very clear principles in Christianity about proper sexual behavior.

Unlike the example of the surgeon, it DOES seem to me that many Christian counselors interacting with youth would interpret their moral and professional obligations to REQUIRE them to advise the students according to what they believed to be correct (e.g., avoid promiscuity, do not have an abortion if you are pregnant, do not engage in homosexual behavior, etc.). (And I am leaving aside for the moment the perfectly good scientific and secular reasons for any such advice.)

That said, if the Christian counselor is working in a PUBLIC high school, he or she would be forbidden from offering religiously-based advice or counseling. One may agree or disagree with that, but that is the way it is.

However, NO such prohibition would be in place at a private, religiously-affiliated high school.

So here are my questions:

(a) Is this a matter of these counseling program candidates choosing to WORK in public high schools? If so, I am baffled.

(b) Or is this a case where the counseling program candidates will choose to and have the option to work in religiously-affiliated high schools? If that is the case, then where is the problem?

(c) I note that both of these cases involve not a high school counselor being dismissed from her job, but a counseling program student being dismissed (or threatened with dismissal) from their own educational program. If these programs can qualify graduates to be counselors at private, reliiously-affiliated high schools where the practice of these Christian counselors' profession can be done consistent with their own religious beliefs, then why are they being dismissed?

(d) Are there limits to licensure in either of these two states? In other words, are these the only counseling programs students could attend?

(e) Finally, I don't see how the "public, taxpayer-funded" argument holds up. That is tantamount to saying that the only way you can attend a public, taxpayer-funded school is if your personal views conform to those of the taxpaying public. First, I don't know how on earth one could determine what those are. Second, there are many, many issues (and homosexuality may well be one of them) where the views of the majority of taxpayers differ greatly from those of academe. Third, I assume that these students and their parents also pay taxes.

The bottom line for me is that, if these students could be qualified to work in a private high school, where their personal views on sexuality could be implemented into their professional duties, then I do not see how requiring them to change those views should be a BFOQ for graduating, unless these universities want to put a stamp on each graduate's diploma which says, in essence, "All of our graduates think the same way about sexuality."

I assume that most Christian high school counselors whose views are like these students' would choose to work in a high school where they can safely express their beliefs. And if they choose to work in a public high school, then they will be constrained by that school's policies and state and federal law.

112. byrne - July 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

The problem is not isolated to this specific university program, but rather derives from guidance which is inconsistent, taking the affirmative postion homosexuality is a natural and normal sexual identity in practice without evidence to support this, and in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. In the APA report on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation we find:

"APA policies (APA. 1993, 2000) and the vast majority of current publications on therapy for LGB and questioning adolescents who are concerned about their sexul orientation recommend that LHMP suport adolescents' exploration of identity by:
- accepting homosexuality and bisexuality as normal and positive variants of human sexual orientation..."

While the APA also states that:

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles..."

APA guidance is to affirm homosexuality as natural and normal, yet this is a complex question, as yet to be determined, and current research suggests nurture does play a role. The APA does, however, ethicaly and legitimately permit a counselor to refer a patient to another counselor where there is an issue of conscience, among other potential reasons - which is what was sought for in this case on religious grounds but refused. It would seem the university program does affirm hmosexuality as natural and normal, however rejects a counselor's right to refer - inconsistent with the ethics of the profession.

Pax et bonum

113. scott_russell - July 30, 2010 at 05:01 pm

Curious that we cannot quite agree with either position. While Ward's rationale is a problem, her solution wasn't bad. However, while the program's solution was a problem, their rationale wasn't bad. In the debate, one hears a lot about whether homosexuality is a choice or not: if it is not a choice then the APA's stand is unavoidable and scientific. But what if it is a choice (as some religious groups believe)? Then can the secular groups still stand by it? Suppose it was like a lot of choices we might object to? Then how do secular groups stand? I am all for sexualities and choose to think that way.

114. dank48 - August 02, 2010 at 01:14 pm

I wish the "homosexuality is a choice" crowd would answer this question. Why would someone "choose" to be homosexual, given the nature of society?

Similarly, if homosexuality is a choice, heterosexuality must be one as well. How many straight people out there remember deciding to be straight? Or is it rather the case that there was never any debate on the matter?

It's a choice the way handedness, height, eye-color, gender, and IQ are choices.

115. rsmulcahy - August 05, 2010 at 06:57 pm

Ah, it is so satisfying to read these kind of debates between the secularists and fairy tale supporters. There is no question the program was right to remove this unfit counselor. So what if she is aware of her biases? That makes her blessed among counselors because she is open to revealing her ignorant beliefs and prejudices? Anyway, back to my enjoyment, I love to read these pro-god/christian arguments...they are so tortured, so whining and they just continually prove that "intelligent design" is obviously impossible simply based on the "intelligence" of christ's followers. My dog has a better grasp of reality and believe me he is no model for intelligent design either. I am sorry you christers are afraid of the world, really it is not that scary, everything is ok, just believe whatever nonsense you want in private and let me do the same. Isn't there something in your favorite book about not casting the first stone? Oh, you haven't actually studied it? I should have known. Try focusing on the spirituality dimension of your faith (as contrasted to any notion of Truth) and leave the social policies to those who care to think.

116. someintellect - August 20, 2010 at 04:50 pm

The Judge and the school were right to kick her out for not abandoning her Christian beliefs and for asking that the gay student to be referred to another therapist. There's no place for such ethical judgment today. Student therapists should be trained to deny and hide their feelings and beliefs so they can be good models for others. Therapists should always be forced to treat everyone. Denial of personal feelings and beliefs are what's most important here; only then can you be a really good, honest therapist. I'm sure her instructors never disliked or referred a client elsewhere. Force her to be open-minded until all her Christianity and the rest of her brains fall out! Only then will she be an acceptable student of this university counseling program.

Rather than resolving this ethically, you failed her, the school and the helping field in a most egregious manner. Every major theorist of psychotherapy is rolling and wrenching concerning your PC ingnorance.

117. someintellect - August 20, 2010 at 09:13 pm

The gay student was not being denied a hamburger at a stand. He was asking for a counseling relationship were he would be heard, accepted and understood. Which he deserved. The student counselor was acknowledging her limitations and acted in the best interests of the client by asking for his referral to another counselor. This is not a political or therapuetic sin, its called ethics EMU! A counselinig relationship is similar to other human relaptionships in that it has its limits. Knowing and respecting those limitations makes for a good counselor. The gay student was not going to give up their orientation and the student therapist was not going to give up her faith. Why was EMU expecting this? If she was a former victim of sexual abuse, would they have thrown her out for refusing to see someone who was a pedophile? She would be discriminating against his sexual orientation after all (pedophilia). The ACLU has taught us how absurd this can get. You can not "enforce compliance" against one's belief system or be cycled through a "remediation" program to change views, even per force of a sadly misguided Federal Judge. It is wholly unethical to do so. EMU's Clockwork Orange reprogramming simply does not hold up. How can this student learn to respect a client's beliefs and views when they model exactly the opposite for her? A fundemental teaching of the helping relationship is knowing and respecting one's self. We are not robots to be programed at counseling school to mechanically engage in any human mission. Counseling is a every bit a personal and professional relationship. Not just one. It must be geniune to work and it can't be faked. You simply can not be trained to work well with everybody no matter what. But now, thanks to EMU, any Christian who desires to enter the counseling profession, and be consistent with their sacred beliefs, just need not apply. Who will be hurt now?

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