Skip to content

Archive site notice

You are viewing an archived copy of Christian Concern's website. Some features are disabled and pages may not display properly.

To view our current site, please visit

Ruling in favour of religious freedom in parallel US case

Printer-friendly version

In a case with a very similar UK parallel, the US Court of Appeals has ruled in favour of Julea Ward, an Eastern Michigan University (EMU) student, who was expelled from its graduate counselling program because of her Christian beliefs.

Julea was on course to pass her degree until she was assigned a homosexual client seeking assistance for problems with a sexual relationship. As a Christian, Julea did not want to affirm the person’s sexual practices.

Julea asked to have the clinic assign the client to another counsellor, yet she was subsequently charged with ‘ethical violations’ and forced to attend a meeting where her beliefs were repeatedly mocked. She was told that she would have to see the “error of her ways” and change her “belief system” if she wanted to obtain her degree.

Julea refused to compromise her beliefs and was subsequently dismissed from the program.

Court Ruling

The US Court of Appeals has now found that: 

“A reasonable jury could conclude that Ward’s professors ejected her from the counselling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith.”

“A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree.”

“…what did Ward do wrong?  [She] was willing to work with all clients and to respect the school’s affirmation directives in doing so.  What more could the rule require? Surely, for example, the ban on discrimination … does not require an atheist counsellor to tell a person of faith that there is a God if the client is wrestling with faith based issues.  Tolerance is a two-way street …A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems . . . as the price for obtaining a degree.”

Julea’s case will now return to federal district court for reconsideration. 

Alliance Defense Fund Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco, who argued before the court on her behalf in October of last year, commented:

“Public universities shouldn’t force students to violate their religious beliefs to get a degree. The court rightly understood this and ruled appropriately .... EMU attacked and questioned Julea’s religious beliefs and ultimately expelled her from the program because of them.”

Gary McFarlane

The case is strikingly similar to that of Gary McFarlane, also a counsellor, who was sacked by his employers in Bristol after he indicated, on a staff training day, that he may have a conscientious objection to providing sex therapy to homosexual couples, but that he would discuss it with his managers if the situation ever occurred.

An employment tribunal held that he had not been discriminated against on the basis of his faith, and his case will now be heard by the European Court of Human Rights.

Government Intervention

The Government recently decided not to back Gary McFarlane or the three other British Christians who have taken their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

Two of the four cases relate to the freedom of Christians to wear a cross in the workplace and two concern instances where the freedom of Christians to act in accordance with their conscience has been trumped by homosexual rights.

The Government has stood by the British courts and argued, in a 40-page document drafted by the Foreign Office, that neither the wearing of a cross nor the following of conscience are an integral part of the Christian faith.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has criticised the Government’s stance, commenting:

“I am very disappointed for the individuals concerned who have simply followed their conscience. Such is the result of a liberal establishment that has become deeply illiberal.”

Gary McFarlane is being represented by the Christian Legal Centre.



US Court of Appeal Ruling


Christian Concern: European Court to rule on discrimination cases

Christian Legal Centre: Gary McFarlane

Christian Concern: Religious Freedom