By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com June 18 2012 1:26 PM ET
The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill last week that could prevent colleges from disciplining counseling, social work, or psychology students based on their religious beliefs.
The Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act was inspired by former Eastern Michigan University counseling student Julea Ward, who refused to affirm the relationship of a gay client as part of her master's practicum. She was removed from the program for her actions. While Ward, who was training to become a school counselor, has attempted to legally challenge the school, a federal judge upheld EMU's decision.
The Michigan House bill states that public colleges may 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," according to Think Progress. The policy would require counseling students to refer clients to another person who can provide the desired services.