Phi Beta Cons

Thought Reform at Eastern Michigan University

It is becoming increasingly clear that many professional schools dedicated to the so-called “helping professions” (education, social work, counseling, etc.) have determined that certain values — often relating to traditional sexual morality — are so abhorrent that they not only can’t be expressed at school but cannot even be believed.  

In recent years, we’ve seen social-work student Emily Brooker punished for failing to publicly support homosexual adoption (and told that she could not graduate unless she brought her “values” more in line with those of the “social work profession”), Rhode Island social-work student Bill Felkner punished unless he worked for “progressive” social change, and an entire line of incidents surrounding the so-called “dispositions” requirement in education schools.

And now the virus has spread to counseling departments. Eastern Michigan University expelled Julea Ward because she was unwilling to vocally support same-sex sexual conduct in counseling sessions. They expelled her in spite of the fact that the she referred to another counselor the only client for whom her stance was relevant and had never even engaged the issue with that client. They expelled her in spite of the fact that she followed the exact process for referral recommended by leaders in the profession. In short, they expelled her not because she harmed anyone but simply because she was unwilling to express support for things she did not believe.

Applying an astonishingly broad policy that prohibits students from even “condoning” discrimination (whatever that means), the university informed Julea that she would have to “see the error of her ways” and change her “belief system” to stay in school. She refused to change her deeply held beliefs, refused to voice support for actions she finds immoral, and found herself out of the program — in spite of a stellar GPA.

To be clear, Julea holds beliefs regarding sexual morality that are completely in line with the entire history of Judeo-Christian moral thought. Is it now the case that such views render a person unfit to even receive a counseling degree?  

Last week, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom challenged EMU in federal court. The case is a critical test for the fundamental freedoms of religious conservatives and will be a leading indicator of the future direction of not just counseling, but a host of additional “helping professions.” If Julea loses, EMU — and a host of similar institutions — should place a banner across their homepage: “Faithful conservatives need not apply.”