Eastern Michigan University has settled out of court with Julea Ward. In March 2009, the Ypsilanti-based university ejected her from its graduate counseling program because she would not affirm a patient’s homosexual lifestyle. Ward said her deeply held religious beliefs would not make her a good counselor for this person and that she wished to make a referral to another counselor.
Instead, EMU forced her into a “remediation” program designed to change her “belief system.” She responded by filing Ward v. Wilbanks.
Under the terms of the settlement, the university will pay Ward an undisclosed monetary settlement, and the expulsion will be stricken from her record.
U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh agreed to dismiss the suit with prejudice on Monday.
“We are pleased that Julea and her constitutionally protected rights have been vindicated,” said Jeremy Tedesco, who argued the case on behalf of the Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF attorney Steven M. Jentzen acted as local counsel for Ward during the case.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Ward’s favor in January, excoriating the university for imposing its viewpoint on a student.
“A reasonable jury could conclude that Ward’s professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith,” the ruling stated. “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.”
The ruling added, “Tolerance is a two-way street. Otherwise, the rule mandates orthodoxy, not anti-discrimination.”
Lawmakers have since attempted to fix the situation.
In June, the Michigan House passed the “Julea Ward freedom of conscience act” by a vote of 59-50. The bill would establish that students studying psychology, counseling, and social work in the state’s colleges would never be forced to violate their consciences or suffer retribution.