Christian views get counselors in trouble
    August 27 2010 by Maggie Hyde, Religion News Service

    It’s a question being raised by counselors and educators across the country: When are religious views on homosexuality an issue of religious and academic freedom, and when are they discrimination?

    On Aug. 20, a federal judge ruled against Jennifer Keeton, a student at Augusta State University who was ordered to either undergo “diversity sensitivity” training after she expressed conservative Christian views on the issue of homosexuality, or leave the school’s counseling program.

    Her attorneys announced Aug. 23 they were appealing the case.

    In March, a federal judge supported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its dismissal of a Georgia counselor who ended a session with a lesbian client and referred her to another counselor because of her religious views. And in Maine last year, a school counselor received complaints for appearing in a TV ad that opposed the state’s gay marriage law.

    As homosexuality becomes more acceptable in American society, some Christian counselors say they are being persecuted for their views as the pendulum, in their eyes, swings too far toward political correctness.

    Professional groups, meanwhile, say counselors are duty-bound to be able to handle any number of cases, including those that present situations that might conflict with the counselor’s personal religious beliefs.

    Julea Ward, a conservative Christian student at Eastern Michigan University, was a few credits away from finishing her master’s degree in counseling in 2009 when she was assigned a student who had previously been counseled about a homosexual relationship.

    RNS photo courtesy Gene Parunak/Alliance Defense Fund

    Julea Ward was dismissed from Eastern Michigan University after she declined to counsel a patient in a homosexual relationship as part of her counseling degree program.

    “She went to her supervisor and said, ‘I may not be the best person for this particular client,” said Jeremy Tedesco, Ward’s attorney, who has advised his client not to speak publicly about the case.

    Ward was later brought up on disciplinary charges, and eventually dismissed from Eastern Michigan for violating the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics and demonstrating an unwillingness to change her behavior.

    On July 26, a federal judge upheld the school’s dismissal of Ward. Her case will be appealed, said Tedesco, an attorney with the conservative legal firm Alliance Defense Fund, which has taken up at least four similar cases in the last year alone.

    Tedesco thinks the appeal could take the case all the way to the Supreme Court, bringing the issue to further prominence.     

    “The judge here definitely got it wrong, in our opinion,” he said. “In my view we’re going to see a trend of more universities doing this.”     

    Ward’s and other cases have left some professionals wondering whether Christian views opposing homosexuality are compatible with the counseling profession, and whether such views are protected under the auspices of religious freedom.

    The question of how much students and professors should be allowed to express religious views that frown on homosexual behavior remains unresolved, but cases like Ward’s and others seem to indicate little tolerance for personal religious views within academia.

    Students in psychology and counseling programs are subject to the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics instead of university rules that may allow greater room for academic freedom.

    Ward’s legal team says the professional codes are unconstitutional and should not be a basis for discipline, especially at public universities.

    “It’s a big difference between teaching a code of ethics and enforcing them,” said Tedesco. “Those kind of policies can’t withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

    University administrators disagree, saying they have to abide by professional standards if they want their students’ degrees to be taken seriously in the workforce.

    “We have to go through accreditation standards,” said Walter Kraft, Eastern Michigan’s vice president for communications. “We have to honor whatever guidelines might exist.”

    Psychology and counseling professionals it is sometimes appropriate for them to deny their services, as Ward did — when there is a conflict of interest, a close relationship, or unchangeable bias. In practice, they say counselors and psychologists need to be as open-minded as possible, given the myriad of personalities they encounter.

    “A professional needs to be able to work with a wide range of populations,” said Clinton Anderson, director of the office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns at the American Psychological Association. “That’s a necessary thing when you’re talking about competence.”

    Anderson said Ward’s actions were inappropriate given her chosen specialty in school counseling. He said school counselors, like those working in rural or poor communities, often don’t have another provider to whom they can refer a student.

    Anderson and others say Christian counselors shouldn’t be surprised by the rules — a sexual orientation anti-discrimination clause has been in the American Psychological Association’s ethics code for more than 20 years.

    “What may be new about it,” he said, “is that there are very active law firms who are prepared to file suits.”
    8/27/2010 6:53:00 AM by Maggie Hyde, Religion News Service | with 6 comments

Gene Scarborough
Sorry, Perry, but truth is truth and observation is observation.

Is there anything where you can just say, "I don't know and I'll leave it in God's hands???
8/28/2010 10:15:59 PM

Perry Comer
My understanding of the news item was that this lady was a student in a "student clinician" situation. She was not licensed nor a "professional" .

As to homosexuality - what good comes from it? How is God glorified by it? Does it have the appearance of evil? Jesus did not specifically address it but He did address that it is better to go to Heaven with one eye than remain in sin. So, it falls back to "what is sin? For sure it is God's definition of sin that matters and not man's. If in doubt don't take the risk.

Just because a cow does it doesn't make it acceptable Gene. please lose that part of your argument for justification.
8/28/2010 11:21:54 AM

Gene Scarborough
[b]The one thing I think we could all agree:[/b] This is wierd--really wierd!!!!

[b]First[/b], I don't understand why the lady did not simply take her degree and then practice it openlly in a Christian Counseling Center for Gays and Lesbians. If you know the philosophical rules of any organization, then you choose whether you can work with them or not.

[b]Second[/b], it sounds like both the religious and scientific sides of the issue are not willing to listen to each other. Us believers should know where we get our ideas and whether they are just "old time religion" or a valid approcah to helping people in a world full of family trouble.

[b]Third[/b], I participated about a year ago on the Texas Baptist Standard blog as Marv Knox had the courage to address the issue of homosexuality straight up. Much of it was more heat than light, but I tried to cite some scientific findings which do shed some light on the subject. Really interested commentators might check the Archives at Baptist Standard.

[b]Fourth[/b], [i]What would Jesus do????[/i] I find not one clear word from the Gospels from Jesus as to how he would minister to--and treat a homosexual. I do see his attitude toward a woman caught in the act or adultery. I see him with the woman at the well. These were both sexuality issues clearly recorded.

[b]We do know this:[/b] Homosexuality is a part of animal behaviour present from the cow pasture to the human record. In some societies it is even extoled as a "special level of humanity."

For sure, we don't know nearly enough about why we are seeing it come to the surface and the fact we don't know what to do with it. In the past, us good Southerners have said, "Ya know little Johnny has some problems and went to Ayatlayanta for some heyelp. He's jest a little strange and we'll pray fer him an his parents. Yew know he has a hankering fer boys and his family ain't welcome at church no more. Let's jest pray fer them!!!"

Last week it was "hot" to talk about a Muslim Cultural Center. I just hope this issue is handled with the same level of intelligence and good discussion as the Muslim issue.
8/28/2010 8:08:02 AM

Dr. James Willingham
Amazing! A Christian counselor who does not feel qualified to counsel in a particular situation is excoriated for seeking to refer the client to some one who might be more sympathetic? God had some things to say about being partaker with others in their evil deeds. Perhaps that might seem harsh until you have counseled and dealt with a child who has been molested by a pedophile or subjected to incestuous conduct or an adult who suffered from either of the two evils as a child and, as a consequence, had their lives so severely disrupted in social development that he or she can barely function in this world. The movement to oust the Christians from the public forum and from meaningful participation in it has been in process and full swing in te past 50 years. Soon, perhaps, what one who was a chaplain in the United Nations said might well be accomplished, namely, "We are going to put you Bible believing preachers in an Insane Asylum one of these days." I do believe in religious freedom enough that I would not even consider doing that to someone like the chaplain just mntioned. After all, it was my ancestors and predecessors in the Baptist ministry who labored to obtain religious liberty for all and justice for those who are mistreated and abused.
8/27/2010 10:55:47 PM

Joe R. Babb
One more statement I often make from the pulpit: In the economy of God everybody is somebody and nobody is a nobody!
8/27/2010 2:37:08 PM

Joe R. Babb
I have read and re-read this article several times and come out with the same feeling that something is out of kelter. Could it be the wrong question has been asked? Try this one: When and under what circumstances may I as a Christian refuse anyone who comes to me for help, especially when I'm trained in the field of their need? I may not approve of their liftstyle or conduct, but they are a person for whom my Lord died to save. I will not fear public opinion to represent my Lord in a spirit of humility and love.
8/27/2010 2:35:01 PM

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