If you read this blog within the past few days, you already know that the Sixth Circuit issued a terrific decision for religious liberty in ADF's case on behalf of Julea Ward, a student Eastern Michigan University (EMU) expelled from its counseling program because of her religious beliefs. Among its many memorable quotes is this zinger: "Tolerance is a two-way street." This is tough medicine for public universities, which so often preach tolerance but practice it for only those who agree with the leftist views that dominate most college campuses.
In addition to this great quote on tolerance, I also wanted to share a few quotes from the opinion that show the refreshing common sense the court applied in rejecting EMU's arguments.
One of EMU's primary reasons for expelling Julea was that she allegedly violated an American Counseling Association (ACA) ethics provision against imposing values on a client. EMU alleged this despite the facts that Julea 1) never even met the client in question, and 2) asked to refer the client. The court saw right through EMU's odd argument that asking for a referral is tantamount to imposing your values:
What exactly did Ward do wrong in making the referral request? . . . . The point of the referral request was to avoid imposing her values on gay and lesbian clients. And the referral request not only respected the diversity of practicum clients, but it also conveyed her willingness to counsel gay and lesbian clients about other issues—all but relationship issues—an attitude confirmed by her equivalent concern about counseling heterosexual clients about extra-marital sex and adultery in a values-affirming way.
The court also relied on common sense in rejecting EMU's claim that Julea violated an ACA provision that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation:
Here too, what did Ward do wrong? Ward was willing to work with all clients and to respect the school’s affirmation directives in doing so. That is why she asked to refer gay and lesbian clients (and some heterosexual clients) if the conversation required her to affirm their sexual practices. What more could the rule require? Surely, for example, the ban on discrimination against clients based on their religion (1) does not require a Muslim counselor to tell a Jewish client that his religious beliefs are correct if the conversation takes a turn in that direction and (2) does not require an atheist counselor to tell a person of faith that there is a God if the client is wrestling with faith-based issues. Tolerance is a two-way street. Otherwise, the rule mandates orthodoxy, not anti-discrimination.
In addition to our strong First Amendment claims in the case, we had argued all along that simple common sense defeated EMU's claims that Julea had violated the ACA ethics code. Seeking to refer a client is the exact opposite of imposing your values on them. And a nondiscrimination rule interpreted to require students to promote ideas that violate their most sincerely held moral and religious convictions is nothing more than an ideological sledgehammer for compelling thought conformity. I was very pleased the court shed some much needed common sense on the matter.
We praise God for this encouraging victory!
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ADF is committed to reclaiming and preserving religious freedom on public university campuses. By God’s grace, and with the prayers and financial support of Christians like you, we will continue our winning record of success—defending the constitutionally protected rights of students, like Julea Ward, to freely live out their faith.
Tucked into the Digital Equity Act, which was included as a provision in the infrastructure bill, are sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination requirements.
Although it’s a long shot, there may be one more glimmer of hope for Barronelle Stutzman as she continues her long stand for freedom.