Victory for Freedom of Conscience in Ward v. Polite

PRINCETON, NJ (January 27, 2012)—The National Association of Scholars applauded the ruling today by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of Julea Ward and in defense of freedom of conscience.
 
Julea Ward was a student in the counseling program at Eastern Michigan University who was expelled from the program after she asked permission to refer a gay client to another counselor. Ms. Ward, citing her Christian beliefs, was willing to counsel the client but not to “affirm” his homosexual behavior. 
 
The National Association of Scholars filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case just over a year ago, which states, “In a society where people—both counselors and clients—hold very different moral and religious views, it makes perfect sense that referrals would be a legitimate and valuable option for counselors who foresee a potential conflict with the client‘s goals.”
 
Today’s court decision corresponds with this concept. “Tolerance is a two-way street. Otherwise, the rule mandates orthodoxy, not anti-discrimination,” the opinion states. “A reasonable jury could find that the university dismissed Ward from its counseling program because of her faith-based speech, not because of any legitimate pedagogical objective. A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree.”
 
Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, said “The Sixth Circuit’s ruling is an important victory for freedom of speech and freedom of conscience in American higher education. Increasingly, students who dissent from the social views that prevail on liberal campuses are marginalized and in some cases stripped of their opportunity to pursue their education. The Court recognized that this is what happened to Julea Ward and it decided the case in a manner that should serve as a warning to other universities that discriminate against individuals under the pretext of upholding ‘non-discrimination’ principles.”  
 
NAS advocates for excellence in higher education by encouraging commitment to high intellectual standards, individual merit, institutional integrity, good governance, and sound public policy. To learn more about NAS, visit www.nas.org.
 
See also “The Scandal of Social Work Education,” National Association of Scholars, September 11, 2007.
 
Video: “EMU Officials: Change Your Beliefs or Leave the Counseling Program,” Alliance Defense Fund, August 3, 2009.
 
 
CONTACT: Peter Wood, President, NAS: 609-683-7878pwood@nas.org
 
 
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