Alex Blaze

Christian Exceptionalism

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 15, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Andrew Shirvell, bill schuette, counseling LGBT clients, Democrats, eastern michigan university, julea ward, Republicans

Michigan's attorney general, who campaigned on not firing that creepy assistant attorney general who was homophobicly/homosexually stalking a gay college student because "when you're not on the government job, you ought to be able to express your opinion," has filed a brief to support a student who's suing her university because they won't graduate her if she's homophobic because they say it means she'll suck at her job but she says it's her right because she Christian.

julea-ward.jpgI've posted about Julea Ward before, who wants to be a high school counselor. While I don't have any trouble saying that a homophobe would automatically make someone a bad high school counselor, since who knows what fucked up shit they'll be telling LGBT students, the school let her state her views in class.

It wasn't until she refused to help a gay person during a practicum at the university, canceling an appointment two hours before when she read that the client was gay, that the school took disciplinary action against her. It turns out that refusing to help clients because of moral disapproval violates several professional standards the American Counseling Association has set up. Ward, since her homophobia is Christian which makes it inherently good, wants a special exception to the rules.

A federal judge already ruled that universities are allowed to require their students to follow the standards set up by professional boards. The AG's brief was filed in the appeal, since apparently they're taking this case all the way to the Supreme Court (can't the conservative Christians find a better test case?).

It's interesting the way things have changed here. It wasn't too long ago where an openly gay graduate student in a mental health field would have been asked to change their sexuality in order to conform to the program, since homosexuality was considered a mental illness.

I read Richard Isay's Being Gay a few years ago (I don't have it with me so I can't quote it), which was a half-psychoanalytic/half-autobiographical text dealing with both his own coming out and, later, how he dealt with gay patients. A good deal of the book is devoted to the lengths he went to to seem straight since that was what he was told he needed to be in order to be a psychoanalyst. In fact, pursuing that career path drove him further and further into the closet.

While he was a psychoanalyst and not a high school counselor, I don't think that there were many high schools back in the early-70's that would have been willing to hire a gay counselor, and there would have been quite a few graduate schools unwilling to graduate a student who was openly gay. Heck, even today there are graduate school deans that tell their students not to come out on the job if they work with kids. We haven't come that far.

So this school is taking a good stand, but I wonder how many other graduate schools out there aren't. Surely Ward isn't the only counseling student who doesn't like gay people, but perhaps she was the most honest. I'd expect the other to just get through graduate school, go to work in a high school, and instead of referring gay students away like Ward says she would do (yeah... only the gay high school students willing to make a stink about the things she tells them about sexuality, which won't be all of them), try to shame them into being straight.

Again, the fact that Ward blames her beliefs on orthodox Christianity (Russian Orthodox? Greek Orthodox? Latvian Orthodox? Something tells me lots of conservative Christians don't even know how their religion is itself organized) is besides the point. This isn't high school where you can just blame your parents to get out of going to that party you aren't comfortable with but your friends want you to go to; there are plenty of adult Christians who don't have a problem with gay people and Ward can take responsibility for her own beliefs.

Anyway, that AG was one of the many extreme right-wing Republicans elected in 2010. Isn't having an uninspiring Democratic party swell?

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Additionally, it seems important to point out that it's not just her belief in the inherent superiority of straight people that is causing the problem here, but her refusal to do her job.

I've been in or given trainings to councilors, advisors, and medical professionals which included pretty rigid homophobes and transphobes before and the advice was always:

#1- Leave your personal feelings aside from providing the service you are there to provide
#2- Consider if you are the best person to provide that service. If you're personal beliefs diminish your ability to provide adequate support to the client, then try to find someone else who can.

Following that advice, it's possible for homophobes to do their job (albeit not as effectively) without violating professional standards or refusing to do their job. It's not hard to frame this in an alternate way; She's not being punished for believing that gays are inferior, she's being punished for canceling an appointment with little to no notice without a valid reason, and for refusing to schedule any makeup or follow up appointments with the client assigned to her.

She said that she would refer all gay clients to someone else, which the university refused for several reasons. It's not the accepted practice, and some high schools will only have one counselor. I'd also add that she probably wouldn't refer the gay kids who aren't entirely out away, saying that they're just questioning their sexuality or something, and that's where the damage could be done.

And what message does that send to kids? You're so fucked up that the councilor won't see you...

Paige Listerud | March 15, 2011 6:29 PM

This woman would be a suicide nightmare for any LGBTQ kid in whatever high school she'd be hired as a counselor. One only wonders what further damage she'd do to heterosexual students since, doubtless, her Christian views on sexuality would certainly condemn them, unless they're virgins.

Annette Gross Annette Gross | March 15, 2011 7:33 PM

Last week I went with 3 other PFLAG parents to a local university to speak to a counseling/diversity class. We suggested to the students that they not put up religious items or sayings in their office, since a lot of GLBT kids have had bad experiences with what religion says. So one young woman said that she can't deny her Christian faith. We told her that her first priority is making sure the students are safe and comfortable, and that religion has no business in a public school. I don't think she understood - I think she thought we were telling her to deny her faith. It seemed to me that her religion is more important to her than her future students. I even wonder if she would be comfortable working with GLBT students. I don't think she would be a good fit for them.

In the mid-90's, I was in a college teaching program. During my second semester, I spoke with my cousin, who is a high school principal and asked his advice since by then I knew I was going to be coming out trans very soon. He told me in no uncertain terms to forget it and find another profession because no school district in the country would ever hire a transsexual teacher. As it turned out, I lost my eligibility for student loans and grants as a result of leaving the program and that was the end of my college career.

Nice to see the tables have finally turned, if a bit too late for me.

Problem #1, this is not a Christian but a prejudiced homophobe hiding in the cloak of bad doctrine probably fed to her since childhood by charlatans. It was forbidden to touch lepers yet Jesus made a point of not only touching them but blessing them. It was forbidden for Jews to speak with Samaritans and whores yet Jesus met the woman at the well. I could go on at length but this is not a theology forum so why bother. I agree with the school. Julea Ward is not being restricted from graduation because of her professed beliefs but because she is an idiot who bailed out of an appointment without providing an alternative to the client.

Great response - if she wants an exception for her religious beliefs the school should at least be allowed to determine if the exception is necessary for her religion.

The No True Scotsman fallacy is lame. They are Christians and it's fairly typical Christian behavior (and also found in all other monotheistic religions). The only reason there are some decent Christians too is because there are hundreds of different sects to choose from.

So, as a 'christian' I suppose she will have no problem helping other 'christians' with counseling when they are trying to figure out which stones are best for killing their kids when they talk back.

Chris Candide | March 16, 2011 1:37 PM

"...orthodox Christianity"

This is a generic term for those Christians who follow the basic tenets of the historic Christian faith (generally patterned on the ecumenical creeds). It has nothing to do with denominationalism. You should have asked someone about that before you making the comment about conservative Christian being ignorant regarding "how their religion is itself organized."

Anyway, that AG was one of the many extreme right-wing Republicans elected in 2010. Isn't having an uninspiring Democratic party swell?

Alex, I'd submit it's a consequence of what happens when you sit out an election to allegedly 'punish' Democrats.

You only end up punishing yourselves

Bingo, Monica! ...

... The only caveat I would offer is that, in 2010, it was often difficult to tell the Dems from the Repugs, because so many "swerved to the middle" on us.

Dem or GOP, if they won't stand up for us, what good are they?

Ronald Gillis | March 16, 2011 10:07 PM

There are many of us gay Christians who are the new "whores","lepers"etc. and I agree that this young lady is unfit to counsel anyone really.

To the Point | March 17, 2011 4:00 AM

Basically, she's saying that her "morality" is going to prevent her from doing her job appropriately and fairly. If that's the case, she needs to find a different job, one where her bigotry isn't going to affect the quality of her job performance.

Years ago,when I was still an evangelical minister I took some classes in hopes of becoming a licensed social worker. I was in constant conflict from the tension between my ardent evangelical beliefs and what would be required of me as a social worker.

The prof in charge of the program told me she doubted I would be able to successfully complete the program due to my unbending evangelical beliefs.

She upset me but she was right. There are some jobs, perhaps, that certain religious beliefs might preclude a person from successfully gaining employment I know a few Christians who lied in order to get a job. Their justification was they could be a missionary if they got the job.