The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Christian graduate student expelled from Eastern Michigan University's counseling program after refusing to provide services to a gay client.
In 2009, EMU student Julea Ward was assigned a client seeking help with a homosexual relationship.
Believing that taking on such a case would violate her Christian convictions, Ward asked the clinic to reassign the client to another counselor -- a move in keeping with the school's counseling code of ethics.
"I explained that I was a Christian and that I could not [endorse] homosexual behavior," Ward said.
Following a formal review hearing, EMU sent Ward a letter dismissing her from the school's graduate program.
"Rather than allow Julea to refer a potential client to another qualified counselor -- a common, professional practice to best serve clients -- EMU attacked and questioned Julea's religious beliefs and ultimately expelled her from the program because of them," said Alliance Defense Fund Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco, who argued Ward's case last October.
Click here to read Ward's complaint against EMU.
The 6th Circuit sided with Ward in a sternly-worded decision being hailed by Christian groups as a victory for free speech and religious freedom.
"A reasonable jury could conclude that Ward's professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith," the appellate court wrote in its opinion Friday.
"A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems... as the price for obtaining a degree," the 6th Circuit wrote. "Tolerance is a two-way street."