U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh decided on Wednesday that Eastern Michigan University was within their rights to expel graduate students, like Julea Ward, who was until recently attending grad school their to earn a masters degree in counseling. She believed that homosexuality is immoral, which didn’t sit well with her professors. Fox News reports:
A federal judge has ruled in favor of a public university that removed a Christian student from its graduate program in school counseling over her belief that homosexuality is morally wrong. Monday’s ruling, according to Julea Ward’s attorneys, could result in Christian students across the country being expelled from public university for similar views.
Well it is happening again, this time at Augusta State University, so I think her attorney’s from the Alliance Defense Fund are spot on with this potentially being a growing trend. We also recently saw an Instructor of Catholicism at the University of Illinois get canned because he taught the church’s position on homosexuality.
I expect this garbage to be coming from universities which are now bastions of everything liberal and politically correct, but for a judge to uphold this nonsense is unconstitutional. You know, the First Amendment, which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Also last time I checked religion is also protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1968, has that changed? This is a state school, I could see the argument made with a private school, but this isn’t the case. She didn’t want to counsel homosexual clients, mainly because they wanted her to endorse homosexual relationships.
Ward’s attorneys claim the university told her she would only be allowed to remain in the program if she went through a “remediation” program so that she could “see the error of her ways” and change her belief system about homosexuality.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit against Augusta State University Wednesday on behalf of a counseling student told that her Christian beliefs are unethical and incompatible with the prevailing views of the counseling profession. The student, Jennifer Keeton, has been told to stop sharing her beliefs with others and that she must change her beliefs in order to graduate from the counseling program.
Not only have these schools prohibited the free exercise of religion, but by telling these students they can stay if they believe differently is establishing a religious doctrine. I’m sure they don’t see it that way, but we all have religious beliefs. Nobody lives in a moral and religious vacuum.
So these students believe homosexuality is immoral, so what? Aren’t there other counselors they could go to? It’s similar to punishing pharmacists who won’t distribute the “morning after pill” because they oppose abortion, or Catholic pharmacists who oppose distributing birth control pills because of what the Catholic Church teaches in the matter. It’s ridiculous because the majority of pharmacists will.
Pharmacists and counseling students should have freedom of conscience and the Bill of Rights, as well as, federal law protects that inalienable right. But this federal judge thinks he can deny that right. Not only is it a Constitutional right which has been further protected in the U.S. Code, but there is judicial precedent protecting students’ constitutional rights. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community Schools case, the Supreme Court ruled that students “don’t shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door.” I suspect that Julea Ward or Jennifer Keeton didn’t think that would be a requirement when the applied to their schools.
I’m sure is not the first of these types of decisions, but they must be resisted. Judge Steenh is a disgrace to his profession, and his decision is unconstitutional. He should resign, he violated his oath. I’m glad that the ADF is appealing this ruling, and I suspect he will be rebuked. I would recommend that the Michigan and Georgia State Legislatures defund these counseling departments. I would also call on Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to intervene as well (not going to hold my breath on Granholm acting).
Freedom of religion is a God-given right that public universities have no business violating.
Update 8/1/10: Tom Gilson on Evangel had a great post last Tuesday – “Freedom of Religion? No, Freedom of Sexuality.”