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Will EMU get away with expelling student who wouldn’t violate her beliefs to get a degree?

ADF attorney available to media after oral argument at 6th Circuit Tuesday in case involving Michigan graduate student
Published On: 10/3/2011

WHO: ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco, ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman
WHAT: Available for media interviews following oral argument in Ward v. Wilbanks
WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 4 immediately following hearing, which begins at approximately 11 a.m. EDT
WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse, 101 E. 5th St., Cincinnati


CINCINNATI — Alliance Defense Fund Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco and ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman will be available for media interviews following Tedesco’s oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit Tuesday in a case involving Julea Ward, an Eastern Michigan University student wrongfully dismissed from the school’s graduate counseling program.

“Public universities shouldn’t force students to violate their religious beliefs to get a degree,” said Tedesco. “Rather than allow Julea to refer a potential client to another qualified counselor--a common, professional practice to best serve clients--EMU attacked and questioned Julea’s religious beliefs and ultimately expelled her from the program because of them.”

EMU initiated its disciplinary process against Ward shortly after she enrolled in a counseling practicum course in January 2009, when she was assigned a potential client seeking assistance regarding a homosexual relationship. Recognizing the potential conscience issue with the client, and knowing she could not affirm the client’s homosexual relationship without violating her religious beliefs, Ward asked her supervisor how to handle the matter. Ward was advised to reassign the potential client to a different counselor. EMU then informed Ward that she could only stay in the counseling program if she agreed to undergo a “remediation” program. Its purpose was to help her “see the error of her ways” and change her “belief system” as it relates to counseling about homosexual relationships.

At a subsequent formal review meeting, EMU faculty denigrated Ward’s Christian views and asked several intrusive questions about her religious beliefs. Among other things, one EMU faculty member asked Ward whether she viewed her “brand” of Christianity as superior to that of other Christians, and another took Ward on what the faculty member called a “theological bout” designed to show her the error of her religious thinking. A faculty committee then dismissed Ward from the counseling program. Ward appealed, but the dean of EMU College of Education upheld the dismissal.

“Julea followed accepted professional practice and the advice of her supervising professor when she referred the potential client to someone who had no conscience issue with the subject to be discussed,” said Tedesco. “She would have gladly counseled the client herself had the topic focused on any other matter. Julea was punished for acting professionally and ethically in this situation.”

Steven M. Jentzen, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is local counsel in the case. 

  • Pronunciation guide: Julea (JEW’-lee-uh), Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-ko)

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. | | Ref. 18794

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