What do Eastern Michigan University and Augusta State University have in common? They both recently demonstrated how important it is for the political left to defend diversity even at the expense of being diverse.
Julea Ward didn’t need another degree. She had already earned two master’s degrees along with the respect of her colleagues at a high school near her home of Belleville, Michigan. While working with teenagers, she was struck by the weight of the problems they faced and she wanted to help. When a student would come to her with a sad demeanor, Julea would invite them to stay after class to talk about their problems. She enjoyed the discussions, believing she was making a difference just by listening and trying to impart some of the wisdom passed on to her by her mother. After awhile, she realized her desire to teach was being eclipsed by her passion for counseling. So, she decided to go back to school for another master’s degree so she would be qualified to become a licensed, full-time counselor.
She entered Eastern Michigan University where she quickly demonstrated her skill in the classroom by earning a 3.91 GPA and by offering thoughtful, respectful, but sometimes controversial thoughts to the discussions. When one of her professors suggested students who didn’t embrace EMU’s views on homosexuality should be weeded out of the program, Julea raised her voice. Her Christian worldview would not allow her to remain silent in the face of teaching that completely ignored the possibility that the Bible is right concerning the sin of homosexuality.
But when she voiced her convictions she was branded a “homophobe” by one professor while another openly mocked her beliefs. Some of the students in the classroom would privately admit they agreed with her perspective but they refused to speak out for fear of what would happen to their grades.
Julea decided to weather the storm, believing her ability to excel academically and her overall good rapport with the professors would help her navigate the rough waters caused by the clash of worldviews.
She was wrong.
At the beginning of her practicum, one of the final courses needed for her degree, Julea was given an appointment with a client who was seeking counsel concerning a homosexual relationship. Realizing she couldn’t violate her conscious by either confirming or ignoring the issues of homosexuality, she asked her advisor if she should refer the client right away or meet with client and risk breaking any established rapport if she had to refer the client later. The advisor adamantly told her she should assign the client to another counselor immediately.
In counseling, when the personal convictions of the counselor contradict the potential counseling expectations of a client a “value-based conflict” is created. It happens often in the counseling profession and it is usually addressed by simply referring the client to a different counselor…that is exactly what Julea did.
Shortly after referring her client, she was notified that there would be an “informal review” to evaluate whether or not she could continue in the program. The reason? She was accused of refusing to meet with a client because the person was a homosexual. The problem is, Julea never said she wouldn’t meet with the client. She simply stated she could not in good conscience affirm a client’s homosexuality and she was encouraged by her advisor to refer the client. So, for following the advice of her advisor and for following exactly what her textbooks taught her to do when a “value-based conflict” arises, she was subjected to what amounted to a faculty inquisition.
When it was all over, she was given three choices: 1) take part in a remediation program designed to change her “belief system,” 2) withdraw voluntarily from the master’s program, or 3) request a formal review hearing. Julea choose door number three and once again endured the grilling of a panel of professors without having the benefit of friends or legal support. Although she had followed the proper and accepted procedure the University removed her from the master’s program.
Julea filed suit in federal court. The Alliance Defense Fund represented her arguing that “Christian students shouldn’t be expelled for holding to and abiding by their beliefs.” But U.S. District Judge George Caram Steech dismissed her lawsuit ruling, “The University has a rational basis for requiring students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values.”
So, according to Judge Steech, the University can impose its values on Julea but her values have to go. This is typical left wing thinking where value imposition is only possible when the values being imposed are based on objective truth.
I wish I could comfort myself with the idea that Julea Ward’s case is an isolated example of an overzealous secular attitude toward Christianity, which is often on display in places like Michigan, Washington, and California. But Jennifer Keeton would disagree. She was recently removed from the master’s program in counseling at Augusta State University in Georgia. The reason? You guessed it…she refused to change her views on homosexuality. The thought police at Augusta State went so far as to demand that Miss Keeton attend a gay pride parade and attend sensitivity classes on homosexuality where she would be required to submit monthly reports on her progress in changing her beliefs. Miss Keeton is also headed to court.
“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:14-16 NASV).