Why Not Force Somebody Who Hates You to Be Your Therapist?


Should a counselor or therapist be required to serve clients whose lives they find objectionable?

Your gay kids are in good hands!

That's the question at the heart of a conflict heating up in Michigan over whether counselors can refuse to counsel gay clients if they hold religious objections to homosexuality.

In 2009, Julea Ward, then a master's student at Eastern Michigan University, asked for a student assigned to her for counseling to be reassigned due to her religious objections to the student's homosexual relationship. Ward was subsequently dismissed from the university for violating the American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics by declining to counsel the student. She is suing, claiming her constitutional rights have been violated.

Now Michigan's legislature is wading in. Their House passed HB 5040 June 12, the "Julea Ward freedom of conscience act," which prohibits public colleges from punishing students who refuse to provide counseling or therapy to clients if doing so conflicts with their personal religious beliefs.

LGBT and civil liberties groups (including the ACLU) have lined up against the legislation, according to the Huffington Post:

While the legislation has gained the support of the Michigan Family Forum and the state's Attorney General, it has also attracted a diverse coalition opposing the bill. Equality Michigan, an LGBT group said on their website that the bill "threatens clients seeking counseling with rejection based on their race, relationship status, and faith, or, yes, because of their sexual orientation" and "sends the message that medical decisions can be based on religious and personal beliefs and not on what's in the best interest of the patient."

The legislation also has also come under fire from a variety of organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union, The National Organization for Women and state educational institutions and professional groups including The Michigan School of Professional Psychology, the Michigan School Counselor Association, the Michigan Counseling Association, the Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers and the Michigan Association of Social, the Presidents' Council of Public Universities of Michigan and Western Michigan University all oppose the measure.

I'll raise essentially the same question I raised when we were looking at a photographer's refusal to shoot a gay wedding: Why on earth would any gay, bisexual or transgendered person want to get counseling from a woman who has moral objections to their very sexual identities? What level of quality of service is some college kid struggling with his or her sexual identity going to get from some religious fundamentalist being forced to choke back her bile in order to help them in the manner American Counseling Association's code demands? Would any parent want their struggling gay teen to be seen by this woman? Is sending any gay person to Ward for counseling "in the best interests of the patient"? What is the actual fight here?

Equality Michigan doesn't help matters by trying to lump in counseling and therapy with medical treatment. A doctor's religious beliefs shouldn't affect his physical ability to provide appropriate medical services (though the question of whether or not you'd want to risk it remains). A therapist's attitude toward a person's sexual identity has to color his or her advice, no matter what "code of ethics" the authorities hold over the therapist's head.

Really, what Ward's opposition wants is for Ward to stop objecting to homosexuality or to not be a counselor, neither of which should be their call at this point. If Ward is able to perform the functions of a counselor, let the market decide if there is a place for a woman engaging in her behavior. A college may not be able to refuse giving her a diploma, but it should be able to refuse to hire her as an employee on the basis of her inability to serve a good chunk of its customers.

There is a significant amount of fear about the continued existence of ex-gay therapy, but that is a cultural issue, not a government issue (though California is looking to ban ex-gay therapy for minors). The ex-gay movement is losing badly. American culture has clearly chosen against them. Freaking out over the extreme anomaly Ward represents is not a good use of anybody's time.

The law, though, is stupid (we know this because it's named after a person). The state's legislature has no place dictating college academic standards in this fashion, but that's the price for having colleges funded by the government in the first place. They will be subjected to the whims of whatever political faction has the most power.

NEXT: Public TV Execs Fall In Alabama

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  1. Cue SIV and the HRomophobes telling us that somehow, someway, gay marriage is responsible.

    1. They are out to make it effectively illegal to object to homosexuality. And Libertarians are right there with them

      1. Yes, but libertarians are shocked, shocked, to find censorship and intolerance among their SSM allies.

        1. This is why nobody takes gay libertarians seriously.

        2. I'm not shocked. I don't let the fact that I disagree with that aspect of their agenda, and will actively oppose it, affect the fact that I openly support another part of their agenda.

          Everyone here tries to make it a false choice between supporting every single thing every LGBT group wants to push, and supporting just marriage equality.

      2. Here comes John, making shit up.

        Be proud of your lies, John.

    2. I blame plural marriage.

  2. Ward was subsequently dismissed from the university for violating the American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics by declining to counsel the student.

    She should have been fired simply for not being able to do her job.

    1. Well, she was a student, so that might not have been an option.

      1. Fuck her. She is a fundie. And if there is one thing that is obvious from reading Reason is that some people deserve rights and others do not in the view of Libertarians.

        1. Yes. This is exactly the "one thing that is obvious from reading Reason."
          Thank you, John, for that epiphany.

          1. I don't think anyone possesses the right to refuse a work assignment and keep their job.

        2. John you are in full fucking retard mode today. Is it not clear from the post that Mr. Shackford supports her freedom of conscience?

    2. Good lord. If you start firing people for inability to do their job, what will the world come to?

  3. Jesus FUCKING Christ, THIS again?


    Fuck I hate people. Let's pass some more fucking laws. THAT'll fix it.

    Stupid motherfuckers.

    1. Also, STUPID fucking Michigan!

    2. So state sponsored universities can fire people based upon their religion now? Got it.

      1. No, but they can dismiss people if they presume to let their religion influence their behavior.

        I'm sure the gay-rights crowd wouldn't complain about that sort of distinction. "We're not dismissing you for being gay - you're free to be gay - we're dismissing you for engaging in sodomy."

        1. If a gay therapist was sodomizing their patients, I'm pretty sure they would be dismissed for it.

          1. I was preemptively dealing with the "you can believe anything you want as long as you don't let it affect your behavior" definition of religious freedom.

            1. That's my point. This girl is making the same arguement as a gay claiming tolerance for gays means they get to sodomize their patients: she's trying to make her religious beliefs an excuse for not doing her job the right way.

              1. This is NOTHING like "gett[ing] to sodomize" anyone, Dragon.

  4. When will libertarians realize that the gay-rights movement doesn't seek a limited-government utopia, but instead seeks a regime of government-enforced acceptance of particular sexual behavior - forced acceptance at the point of a gun if necessary?

    And I may as well register my standard objection against the word "hates" in the headline. Unless you would say you "hate" your Democratic Party member friends and spouses because you don't have the same politics and lifestyle preferences as they do.

    1. When will libertarians realize that the gay-rights movement doesn't seek a limited-government utopia, but instead seeks a regime of government-enforced acceptance of particular sexual behavior - forced acceptance at the point of a gun if necessary?

      Maybe they do realize it, but don't think the alternative is government enforced non-acceptance?

      1. Who is proposing enforced non-acceptance? Which state legislatures are forbidding landlords from renting to gay couples, or forbidding private employers from giving benefits to same-sex partners of employees?

        It's not a mirror image: One side is leaving the private sector free from government coercion, the other side is shouting to the rooftops its enthusiasm for such coercion. Don't want to rent to gay couples? Don't want to provide same-sex partner benefits? We'll sue you into bankruptcy in the name of tolerance!

        1. Who is proposing enforced non-acceptance?

          The Republicans who are still arguing it should be a felony?

          1. Even in the dark days before the great and glorious Lawrence decision, a majority of states had legalized gay sex.

            1. 1) That doesn't excuse the states that hadn't
              2) Nor the people who fought and continue to fight the legalization efforts in the states that did.

  5. I think there are two separate issues here.

    Obviously, as everyone knows, if someone wants to put a sign on the door of their PRIVATE PRACTICE that says 'No gays!' or 'No blacks' or 'No Jews', I say that no one possesses the moral authority to stop them.

    But this wasn't this woman's private practice. She was either an employee given a work task, or a student given an assignment. She refused to do it. If you're my employee and you refuse an assignment, I should be entitled to tell you to get the fuck out.

    I'd be inclined to give her more latitude if this was more in the way of a student assignment, since I'm sure the university makes religious accomodations to other groups. But if this woman was drawing a paycheck and refused an assignment, FUCK YOU GET THE FUCK OUT.

    1. I think even with the student assignment thing, she should suck it up and learn to do it. Counselling and/or psychotherapy isn't approval. She should take it as an opportunity to learn about dealing with difficult clients and separation of self from therapy. Even if she does go into private Christian-Hetero-only private practice, she's still going to have to deal clients who commit adultery, or blasphemy, or whatever else.

      And if you want to do religious counseling, you go to seminary for that. My father-in-law was a preacher who did marriage counseling. Met his second wife that way. Guy's a real winner.

  6. This woman's action was effectively the same as a police officer refusing to respond to an assault in progress because the victim was gay and they objected to homosexuality.

    I agree with the secondary point of the post, namely that it doesn't make a lot of sense to try to force a therapist who hates you to treat you, but that's not really the issue. The issue is whether people drawing public paychecks can pick and choose which citizens they'll deign to help based on their religious beliefs about the person's behavior. I say, FUCK YOU GET THE FUCK OUT.

    1. I think your formulation begs the question, even if you're focused on the ability of the government to impose standards of behavior on its employees. This Michigan bill says that helping gay people with their relationship problems is *not* the duty of a government employee if it's against their conscience. Instead, the legislature, if it passed this bill, would say to public universities on behalf of the taxpayers: "We have the power of the purse and we're setting the rules."

      And from the standpoint of the public interest, I see little comparison between a cop arresting someone guilty of assault and a state-paid therapist helping a gay person be a better gay person in his/her relationships.

      1. That's fair. It's not really a religious discrimination claim being made - it's the legislature trying to step in as the boss of the boss here, so to speak.

        But I would still submit that if the legislature wants to give people taking state checks the right to pick and choose which taxpayers to serve, the people advocating that are no better than people advocating, say, giving doctors in public hospitals the right to not serve Jews.

        And from the standpoint of the public interest, I see little comparison between a cop arresting someone guilty of assault and a state-paid therapist helping a gay person

        It's exactly the same. We have a person drawing a public salary refusing to perform their core service to one set of taxpayers based on their personal animus against that set of taxpayers.

        I actually favor greater free speech rights for public employees than currently exist under Holmes-era case law. I think if a cop, for example, runs around declaring that he hates blacks or gays off the clock, it should be protected speech unless and until some evidence of discriminatory misconduct on the job surfaces. But we're not talking about off-duty conduct here, we're talking about someone refusing to perform their core function.

        Therapist - Cop
        Therapy - Police Services
        Gay Citizen - Black Citizen

        You may not think therapy is a particularly valuable service, compared to police services, but that's irrelevant.

        1. Meh, your analogy fails.

          A therapist, in order to make progress, requires empathy for their client. Absent this, the client will get nothing useful.

          Such a requirement is not necessary for a cop. They can do their job by rote if they have to.

          1. By the way, I'm dot disagreeing with your points in general, just the specific analogy which is simply inadequate and poorly constructed.

  7. Can you inmagine how that relationship counseling session would have gone? There's probably some law against the advice the student counselor would've given, too.

  8. If this law passes, I can't wait for the inevitable case where some Muslim student refuses to counsel a female patient for religious reasons and the same people who backed it freak out about "Sharia therapy".

    1. "Behead two infidels and call me in the morning."

    2. Haha you really think a public American university would fire a Muslim student for refusing to counsel because it conflicted with her religious beliefs?

      I know it's tempting to argue principle, but this is straight up protected class bullshit. Hell, I'd argue a Muslim counselor with the same objections would have been quietly reassigned, not fired.

      It's not about liberty, it's about victimhood.

      1. I'm sure the university would, but the patient would be on Fox the next day with Pam Gellar frothing about how this is the is just like being in Iran.

        1. Wait you really think that a university would have fired a Muslim student for an identical refusal and subsequent firing?

          1. It's not a question of whether they would have. It's a question of whether they should.

            The other question is: if a Muslim was fired in a similar position, would the Michigan legislature quickly pass a law saying Muslims can discriminate against women in the provision of publicly-funded services if they want, and no one can object? Pull the other one.

            1. Didn't say that. Not even a little bit. Just pointing out the rather obvious fact that is not about high principles, but rather the lowest sort of tribal politics.

              To the university administration, she's an icky Christian being bigoted and mean and prejudiced. It's not about a counselor's responsibilities, or the right of an employer to fire employees who refuse to work. Not really. Those are the excuses.

            2. Considering the large mass of 3rd world savages living in Deerborn, they might have.

      2. Virginian, assuming that you're right and it's about victimhood, in academia, gender victimhood outweighs religious victimhood by a wide margin.

  9. Where, exactly, is the right to counseling?

    I've thumbed through my CATO pocket Constitution for ten minutes, now, and even though the pages are well-worn... they're still readable.

    Maybe Tony can enlighten us. He's a super-genius expert, after all; that's what it says on his college diploma.

    1. Where, exactly, is the right to counseling?

      Sixth Amendment? 😉

      1. You're seriously using the Sixth here, Stormy?

        Good God, are you that fucking stoopid?

        1. No, I'm not seriously using it, hence the ";)". It was just a joke on "right to counseling" vs. "right to counsel".

          1. It's kinda hard to tell, with you.

            1. That's it! You're hopeless! You're pathetic! You're the worst straight man I've ever seen! I QUIT!!!

              I never should have saved you from those seals!

    2. If a public university is using public funds to provide counseling services, the people providing those services should not be allowed to pick and choose what citizens get the service based on their personal preferences.

      1. And if her counseling advice had been, "The reason you are screwed up emotionally is because you are gay. You need to visit Mr. Bachman's School for fixing homosexuals." That would have been acceptable to you?

        1. It would've been acceptable to me. It would also have been acceptable to me if she'd gotten failing marks for it, and failed out of the program.

      2. This, as most of your other posts in this thread do, betrays an ignorance to how this process occurs.

        I will tell you that had she simply said "I don't feel I'm the best choice for you" and referred her client, you'd never have head of this.

        Therapists dump clients all the time, for age, race, sex, and behavioral problems, with absolutely no concern that it will be problematic. Normally, they refer the client to someone else who is more appropriate, but I personally know a woman who flatly refuses to have anything to do with certain diagnoses.

        The question is, when one's job requires a level of connection with the client, is it a bad idea to move them on to someone more appropriate when you reach an irreconcilable difference.

        The APA says it's fine.

        1. ^^This^^

        2. "She went to her supervisor and said, 'I may not be the best person for this particular client," said Jeremy Tedesco, Ward's attorney,..."

          It seems she did do that, and that was what directly got her disciplined.

  10. The law, though, is stupid (we know this because it's named after a person).

    I once found an exception to that rule: Katie's Law.

    1. Or maybe that isn't an exception: see "criticism". Reading comprehension FTL?

  11. I'm sure the college also has a policy on students who are opposed to homosexuality being refused counselling services if they ask for a different counselor based on that criteria. Or...wait. Just another commercial discrimination law.

  12. I'll raise essentially the same question I raised when we were looking at a photographer's refusal to shoot a gay wedding"

    But this is in no way whatsoever "essentially the same question."

    No one doubts that a bigot can be a competent photographer. The question here is whether a bigot can be a competent psychologist. Bigots say yes, professionals say no (and legislators say pander).

  13. If Julea Ward was a conservative Muslim and advised on religious grounds the stoning of a woman to resolve a conflict because this is the religious sharia law method of resolving a moral problem, and was then going to defend her client as justified in action in accord with his religion, and that religious faith trumps any civil law, would these same legislators be introducing a Julea Ward Act to defend her acting on the basis of her religion in violation of the professional code of ethics that requires defending the civil law in both advice and in reporting possible criminal acts her client might do?

    The issue is whether Julea Ward will conform to professional standards of conduct for the good of the profession, the client, and society.

    Even religions are restricted by law to conform to standards for the good of society. See Supreme Court decision Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. (8 Otto.) 145 (1878).

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