January 30, 2012
A federal appeals court ruled last week that a counseling student who declined to advise a gay client might have been expelled from her university because of her faith, the Religion News Service reports. When Eastern Michigan University graduate student Julea Ward was assigned a client who sought counseling on a same-sex relationship, she cited her Christian faith in requesting that the client be referred to another counselor. After refusing to undergo a "remediation" program, Ward was expelled. A lower court sided with the university, but Ward appealed, saying the school had violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. On Jan. 27, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Ward could have a valid claim, and sent the case back to a district court for another hearing. "A reasonable jury could conclude that Ward's professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith, not due to a policy against referrals," the appeals court ruled.