Extremist religious groups and their allies in government are at it again.
Unfortunately, the Education Committee of the Michigan House of Representatives recently approved House Bill 5040, also known as the “Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act.” The bill now goes to the House floor to be voted upon in the near future.
This bill, if passed, would subvert the national standards of the counseling process and legalize discrimination in our nation’s higher education institutions.
The “Freedom of Conscience Act” was created following a tragic incident at Eastern Michigan University where a gay student was discriminated against by a fellow student named Julea Ward. Ms. Ward, who served as a graduate counselor in the university’s counseling program, was removed from her position and expelled from the university after she attempted to refer a client to another counselor because the client’s file indicated a past gay relationship, a relationship Ms. Ward morally opposes as an evangelical Christian.
The Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association and the Ethical Standards of the American School Counselor Association, which student counselors are obliged to follow as a curricular requirement of the university, mandate that counselors are not to allow their personal values to intrude into their professional work. Since Ms. Ward broke these standards, the school was correct in terminating her from her position.
Under House Bill 5040, public and private colleges, universities, junior colleges, and community colleges would be prohibited from disciplining or discriminating against a student in the counseling, social work, or psychology programs, because the student refused to serve a client whose goals conflicted with a student’s sincerely held religious belief or moral convictions.
If you are a Michigan Resident, this is your chance to stand up against state-sanctioned religious discrimination. Contact your state Representatives and ask them to vote against the “Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act.”
The American Humanist Association is committed to defending the right of all people not to be discriminated against, and stands in favor of the rigorous standards that are present in the counseling profession.
I ask you to join this important effort by taking action now. Thank you for standing up against religious discrimination.