A More Perfect Union Nov/Dec 2010

Julea Ward was getting A’s in her classes. She had completed all of her required work for a master’s degree in counseling at Eastern Michigan University, but problems arose during her practicum. Julea was assigned a client who was suffering from depression. After reviewing the file, she recognized he had also sought counseling regarding his homosexual relationship with another man.

Julea spoke with her supervising professor and asked that the client be assigned to another counselor. She had been outspoken about her Christian worldview in the counseling program and told her supervisor she could not in good conscience affirm homosexual behavior in a counseling setting. Her stand cost her a master’s degree. The university barred Julea from graduating.

On July 27 George Steeh, U.S. District judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, issued an opinion in the case of Julea Ward v. Roy Wilbanks (and other Eastern Michigan University officials). He ruled in favor of the university, saying none of Julea’s First Amendment rights of religion or conscience had been violated. This case is a powerful illustration of what may lie in store for followers of Jesus who take the values of Scripture seriously.

The university’s wafer-thin basis for its outrageous treatment of an excellent student was that Julea had supposedly violated the ethical standards of the American Counseling Association (ACA) by refusing to counsel a homosexual. The disingenuous nature of Eastern Michigan University’s argument becomes shockingly clear when we realize that, rather than violating the ACA code of ethics, Julea was actually complying with it.

The ACA holds that a counselor should refrain from counseling a client whenever he or she determines an “inability to be of professional assistance” to that person. In fact, a 2003 counseling study found that some 40 percent of all counselors in practice had to refer a client to another professional because of a conflict between their sexual values and those of the client. But the university was undeterred. It insisted on enforcing a politically correct standard of “non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

A similar case is pending in federal court involving Augusta State University in Augusta, Georgia. That school has required a Christian student in its counseling program to undergo classes to reorient her opinions about homosexu-ality, or face expulsion. These cases show not only the homosexual movement’s influence in our American institutions, but also academia’s deep-seated bigotry toward Bible-believing Christians.

One piece of evidence in the Julea Ward case was a 2003 professional counseling textbook titled Interviewing and Change Strategies for Helpers: Fundamental Skills and Cognitive Behavioral Interventions. This standard counseling reference text declares, “In interactions with clients, it is impossible to be ‘value free’” and states that, if the counselor experiences a values conflict with a client, that counselor has the right to refer the client to another therapist. In light of these two cases, however, perhaps the textbook will now have to include a footnote: “This right of referral does not exist if the counselor is a Christian.”

If we extrapolate the ruling in the Julea Ward case to other contexts, here is what we see:

  • Christians will be denied the right to receive advanced degrees in philosophy because they have made up their minds on the matter of “truth.”
  • They will be barred from receiving medical degrees because of their position on abortion.
  • They will be stripped of law degrees because they might be unwilling to represent atheists who want to remove religious symbols from our national landscape.

Christians can always be barred from full participation in American life if all it takes is an allegation that we are “closed-minded” on matters of values, moral behavior, or religious truth. Having accepted the Bible as the ultimate, inspired guide in all these areas, Christians become vulnerable to the tyranny of those who impose the edict of cultural “tolerance” in the most intolerant of ways.

While we must continue to argue vigorously against the result in cases like Ward, we should also be encouraged. These attacks are not new, and in them we share great company. John Bunyan, in his book Pilgrim’s Progress (written in the 1600s), fictionalized the idea of vicious political correctness in the character of Mr. By-ends, a thoroughly modern fellow who hailed from a town called Fair-speech, where “we never strive against the popular tide.”

Bunyan, interestingly, wrote much of his book about the Christian experience while in jail, where he had been incarcerated because his gospel preaching had been deemed illegal by the ruling establishment. And then there is Martin Luther who took his famous stand for biblical truth before the papal council at the Diet of Worms. “It cannot be right,” he cried out, “for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”

Amen indeed.

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