Federal Judge Upholds Thought Reform at EMU

Glenn Ricketts

Yesterday, good news, since we were elated to acknowledge FIRE's victory for academic freedom at a California community college. Today, back to the more familiar bad news, since a federal judge has upheld the right of Eastern Michigan University to expel Julea Ward, an evangelical Christian student who was training as a high school guidance counselor. Ward, as we've reported previously, was just shy of graduating from EMU's counseling program when she was mugged by PC ideology. Because of her religious convictions, she could not agree to counsel prospective homosexual clients in the affirmative manner required by EMU's program. Should such a case arise, she said, she'd simply refer gay clients to other counselors able to accomodate their needs. Oh no, said EMU, that's not good enough, not by a mile. Sign this paper, or out you go. I can't, she insisted; you' re gone, they replied. Supported by the Alliance Defense Fund (read the ADF's press release here and an Inside Higher Education article here), she sued the school, contending that her First Amendment rights had been violated. Ordinarily, you'd expect First Amendment claims to weigh especially heavily in a case such as this, but the judge, alas, bought the university's argument about needing latitude in designing its curricula and programs, and the courts have always deferred in such instances, etc., etc. This isn't about thought control, insisted the counseling program's directors, it's simply a matter of recognizing the need to deal with a wide variety of clients, including those with beliefs different from one's own. Who could disagree? Maybe I'm cynical, but I somehow don't think a gay atheist will be required to declare that he's willing to counsel Southern Baptists in a manner that affirms their beliefs. ADF is appealing the case, and we wish them well. Increasingly though, it seems that the acceptable parameters for discussing homosexuality on campus these days are narrowly one-dimensional. And if you don't see the issue that way and you're a faculty member without tenure, or if you're a student and want your degree in counseling or social work, better keep quiet or go elsewhere.

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