Tell Your Senator to Reject Bill That Would Allow Religious Discrimination in Counseling

June 21, 2012

The Michigan Senate is expected to vote soon on a House-approved bill that would effectively legalize discrimination in counseling programs at public colleges and universities throughout the state. The Center for Inquiry (CFI) strongly opposes this measure and implores Michigan residents to contact their senators and tell them to vote “no.”

The so-called "Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act" would forbid Michigan’s public colleges and universities from disciplining a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program if he or she refuses to serve a client whose behaviors or goals conflict with the student’s religious beliefs. The bill is named after a former graduate counseling student at Eastern Michigan University who was removed from her position and expelled after she referred a client to another counselor because the client’s file indicated a past gay relationship – which she opposed as an evangelical Christian.

Religious believers often cite this case as an example of discrimination against religious counseling students. Yet it is simply an example of requiring all counseling students to comply with the same rules. The Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association and the Ethical Standards of the American School Counselor Association – which all counselors are obligated to follow – mandate that counselors are not to allow their personal values to intrude into their professional work.

CFI believes this is a reasonable policy. No one is forced to become a counselor, and whoever chooses to pursue counseling as a career path should be prepared to serve all those who request their services. A government-mandated special exemption from the aforementioned Codes of Ethics for religious counseling students would unfairly – and unconstitutionally – privilege religious reasons over nonreligious ones.

If the Julea Ward Act were passed into law, student counselors in Michigan would have free rein to delay or obstruct services to student clients who do not follow their religious views. This is unacceptable.

Only you can prevent this bill from becoming law. Stand with the Center for Inquiry and tell your state senator to vote against the Julea Ward Act today!

Click here to take action now. 

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