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Expelled EMU student's bias suit revived by appeals court

Julea Ward.
Julea Ward.

Update: 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28:

Eastern Michigan University issued this statement:

"The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals made no legal findings against the University. It did not rule that the University engaged in discrimination and it did not rule in favor of Julea Ward. Rather, the Sixth Circuit Court ruled that there needs to be additional legal proceedings before a decision can be reached. The Court also found that the Regents and the President of Eastern Michigan University were properly dismissed from the lawsuit and refused to reinstate them despite Ward's request.   

"This case has never been about religion or religious discrimination. It is not about homosexuality or sexual orientation. This case is about what is in the best interest of a person who is in need of counseling, and following the curricular requirements of our highly respected and nationally accredited counseling program, which adheres to the Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association and the Ethical Standards of the American School Counselor Association. Those Ethical Standards require that counselors are not to allow their personal values to intrude into their professional work."


A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University by a master’s degree student. She was removed from a counseling program because of her views on homosexuality.

Julea Ward refused to counsel lesbian, gay and bisexual clients about same-sex relationships because she said it was against her Christian faith.

She asked that LGBT clients be referred to another counselor.

EMU said the refusal was a violation of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics and expelled Ward from the program.

Jay Kaplan is with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which supports EMU’s position.

"It becomes a very slippery slope if you allow people to be able to carve out exceptions to those core curricular requirements, for whatever reasons," says Jay Kaplan of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which supports EMU's position.

The appeals court says a jury could conclude that Ward’s beliefs were used against her. EMU denies any bias. 

The case now returns to Detroit federal court.