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‘You Don’t Have to Counsel the Sinful’ Bill Advances in Michigan

‘You Don’t Have to Counsel the Sinful’ Bill Advances in Michigan

 

Michigan’s GOP controlled House on Friday passed a bill so that student counselors don’t have to give counseling to gay people, women who have had abortions, or anyone else rendered morally unpalatable by their religious beliefs.

HB 5040, or the Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act, reads:

A bill to protect the right of a student to assert conscientious objection to providing certain counseling or other services; to prohibit certain actions by institutions of higher education; and to provide remedies.

It goes on to say:

[A higher learning institution] shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.

The bill is named after student counselor Julea Ward who was dismissed from a counseling program at Eastern Michigan University in 2009 after she refused to counsel a gay student, claiming that her religious beliefs meant she couldn’t affirm “immoral persons” to be healthy as the program — and general scientific medical understanding — said she should.

Ward, with the backing of the ever ready religious conservative Alliance Defense Fund, sued, charging that the school violated the Constitution by censoring her freedom of religious speech.

She lost the first round in federal court, but later won a ruling with the U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals, with the court saying there was a reasonable chance a jury might have decided the university used its code of ethics as pretext for censoring or punishing Ward’s religious freedom of speech. The Court ordered a retrial in lower court, this time before a jury.

Eastern Michigan University maintains that Ward’s dismissal was in fact not about religion or homosexuality, but a university’s right to insist that its trainees complete academic assignments to the standards expected of professional counselors, something Ward failed to do.

LGBT rights groups suggest that not only is this bill motivated by bias, it could have wider repercussions for all of Michigan’s mental health professionals, with Equality Michigan saying:

House Bill 5040 threatens clients seeking counseling with rejection based on their race, relationship status, and faith, or, yes, because of their sexual orientation. The “First Do Harm” bill also threatens the accreditation of Michigan universities’ counseling programs disabling Michigan graduates in their search to find employment and guarantees that Michigan will not be a top choice for the nation’s best and brightest prospective counseling students.

However, Ward’s representatives from the Alliance Defense Fund are pleased with the legislature’s attempts to enshrine this religious right to discriminate, with Jeremy Tedesco of the ADF saying “We’re encouraged that the elected representatives of Michigan have taken a concern in this case and decided to act.”

The legislation, which passed 59-50 in the House, now moves to the Michigan Senate.

Take Action: Sign the petition against this bill.

 

Related Reading:
Dispatches From The War On Women: If You Can’t Say It, You Can’t Regulate It
Michigan Dems Perform ‘Vagina Monologues’ In Response To GOP Censorship
Catholic Hospitals Refuses to Compromise on Birth Control

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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to mariopiperni.

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81 comments

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1:59PM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

yes "it is the sick who need the physician", as Jesus Christ said - if "gays" are sick (and ALL have come short of the glory of God) then they certainly need the counseling that the well have no need of - the problem today is that those who are the sickest of all (religious right white supremacist types who think they are saved by what their hands have done) think they are well - but if you are a fool and you know you are a fool then you know something, amen?

1:59PM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

yes "it is the sick who need the physician", as Jesus Christ said - if "gays" are sick (and ALL have come short of the glory of God) then they certainly need the counseling that the well have no need of - the problem today is that those who are the sickest of all (religious right white supremacist types who think they are saved by what their hands have done) think they are well - but if you are a fool and you know you are a fool then you know something, amen?

1:59PM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

yes "it is the sick who need the physician", as Jesus Christ said - if "gays" are sick (and ALL have come short of the glory of God) then they certainly need the counseling that the well have no need of - the problem today is that those who are the sickest of all (religious right white supremacist types who think they are saved by what their hands have done) think they are well - but if you are a fool and you know you are a fool then you know something, amen?

3:41AM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

At least we now know which state has the majority of insane legislators.

9:37PM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

It's amazing how these religious people who are so quick to call something other people do as a sin because their god told them it was are able to completely ignore the central theme of the book -- being good to people, caring for the less fortunate and the sick. They also seem to overlook the passages about being wealthy and powerful was not a good Christian thing. Christ didn't tear down the leper colony, he went after the moneychangers, ie bankers. And not once did he ever say god used his control over the elements to punish people with natural disasters and diseases. That idea came from the twisted, hate-filled minds of people who don't read the book they're shoving down everyone else's throat.

8:23PM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

Those advancing this law would do well to re-read their Bibles...I don't recall Jesus refusing to help the poor b/c He felt they weren't working hard enough, or tell the lepers that their disease was just punishment for a "sinful" lifestyle.

8:35PM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

When will people understand that sin is an idea and an opinion?

8:31PM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

The people who might need it most. And who are we to judge what is moral?

11:45AM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

Okay, we get it, you can't fix stupid BUT do they HAVE be in Government offices so they screw Americans???

2:59PM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

We do NOT need to be giving degrees in counselling to bigots. Their clients will get hurt, when they are vulnerable. Imagine if they were working for a suicide hot-line and told the caller they'd have to connect them to someone else because they were too sinful to be worth saving.

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