Michigan counseling students are another step closer to “freedom of conscience” protection. Last week, the Michigan House of Representatives passed the Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act, which forbids public colleges from disciplining a psychology student for refusing to counsel against sincerely held religious beliefs.
HB 5040 employs “values-based referrals”: counselors-in-training may refer clients who request treatment outside the counselor’s deeply held religious beliefs to another clinician. This bill balances the client’s right to self-determination with the counselor’s freedom of conscience.
The bill is named after Julea Ward, who was expelled from Eastern Michigan University’s counseling program for not affirming a client’s homosexual lifestyle. Ms. Ward’s personal religious beliefs conflicted with the client’s desired treatment goal, but she did not have a values-based referral option.
“I applaud the Michigan House of Representatives for standing beside the patient and the counselor,” said Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel Action. “This commonsense approach serves the client and the counselor-in-training. I call on the Michigan Senate to pass the Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act.”