Thursday, October 06, 2011

Graduate Student's Lawsuit Against College Pits School Policy Vs. Religious Beliefs

The First Amendment should trump all the other flim-flam

An attorney for a graduate student claiming she was wrongfully dismissed from her counseling job at a Michigan college because she refused to counsel gay and bisexual clients on their relationships argued in federal court Tuesday that his client was discriminated against because of her religious beliefs -- while the school insists her actions violated school policy.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati heard arguments in the case involving Julea Ward, a Detroit-area public school teacher. In July 2010, a federal judge dismissed Ward's lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University (EMU) after the school successfully contended she violated school policy and the American Counseling Association's code of ethics, which forbids counselors from discrimination in clinical practice.

Following Tuesday's hearing, Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney for the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, said he believes the Appeals Court will overturn the ruling because it violated Ward’s First Amendment rights. "Ultimately, the university has a really tough battle here," Tedesco told "The bottom line to us is that this is very clear violation of her First Amendment rights in a couple of different contexts."

Tedesco argued that Ward's rights were violated when she was required to enter a remediation program to change her beliefs toward homosexuality. He said EMU officials violated the U.S. Constitution when they refused to accommodate Ward's sincerely held beliefs by not allowing her to refer her client to another qualified candidate.

"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," Tedesco said in a statement. He said there is no timetable for the appellate court's decision.

According to ADF attorneys, Ward was assigned a potential client seeking assistance regarding a homosexual relationship shortly after she enrolled in the counseling program in January 2009. Realizing she could not affirm the client's relationship without violating her own religious beliefs, Ward then asked a supervisor for assistance. After being advised to reassign the potential client, EMU officials informed Ward she would need to undergo a "remediation" program in order to stay in the counseling program, the attorneys claim.

Ward was later dismissed from the program, and EMU officials denied her appeal.

"Julea followed accepted professional practice and the advice of her supervising professor when she referred the potential client to someone who had no conscience issue with the subject to be discussed," Tedesco's statement continued. "She would have gladly counseled the client herself had the topic focused on any other matter. Julea was punished for acting professionally and ethically in this situation."

In a statement to, university officials said they are confident the July 2010 ruling will be upheld.

"This case has never been about religion or religious discrimination," read a statement issued by Walter Kraft, vice president for communications at EMU. "It is not about homosexuality or sexual orientation. This case is about what is in the best interest of a client who is in need of counseling, and following the curricular requirements of our highly-respected and nationally-accredited counseling program ... This case is important to Eastern Michigan, it also is important to universities across the country, as well as to the several universities in Michigan that have filed briefs in support of our position in this case."

In February, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting EMU.

"Students seeking counseling must be able to trust that they will receive the help they need, free from discrimination," ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling said in a statement.

"Counselors are entitled to their own religious beliefs, but they do not have a right to discriminate as part of their professional training at a public university."

Michael Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, said public school counselors should not be "able to close the door" to homosexual students looking for guidance.

In a 48-page opinion, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed Ward's lawsuit in July, citing the university's rational basis for adopting the American Counseling Association's code of ethics.

"Furthermore, the university had a rational basis for requiring students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values," Steeh wrote. "In the case of Ms. Ward, the university determined that she would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs -- including homosexual relationships."


Final British High School exams no longer trusted says A.C Grayling, who can’t tell the difference between A and A*

A-levels and GCSEs are of such poor quality that they are no longer a reliable way of selecting university candidates, a leading academic has warned. Professor A C Grayling said that students with a string of top grades are ‘no brighter’ than those who look ‘less brilliant’ on paper.

The popular philosopher, president of a new private university, the New College of the Humanities, made the comments during a scathing attack on the exam system. He said that he and his colleagues will have to interview every single candidate because grades do not give a fair reflection of ability.

Professor Grayling, speaking at the annual meeting of 250 leading private school heads, said he made the discovery while interviewing youngsters for the first intake, in 2012. He remarked that a female pupil with two As and a B at A-level was more ‘interesting, lively and thoughtful’ than one with three A*s and two As. He has offered places to both.

He blamed the failings on the ‘tyranny of testing’, saying pupils are taught to the test, rather than taught to think.

‘We intend to interview personally every plausible-looking candidate because we can’t really rely as much as we would like to be able to on A-level and GCSE results,’ he said.

Professor Grayling told delegates at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference annual meeting at St Andrews, in Fife, Scotland: ‘We are subjecting our young people to exams every single year, from GCSEs through to when they leave university.

‘GCSEs, AS, A-levels, first-year module exams, second-year module exams, third-year module exams – this is a tyranny and distorts the education process. ‘They are so focused on getting an A* or getting a first in their first-year modules that they lose the point of what they are doing.’

The £18,000-a-year NCH, which is opening in Bloomsbury, Central London, had said it would only accept the brightest pupils with straight A grades.

Professor Grayling’s comments are likely to prompt claims that the NCH is being forced to accept less able students to fill its places, even though it is only seeking to recruit 180 in its first year. A spokesman for the college said it had received 1,300 inquiries from potential applicants.

However, it has only had firm applications from a handful of students who got their A-levels this summer and are taking a gap year.


Several Australian universities get into the world top 200

There are various ranking systems and they all have a degree of arbitrariness about them but it is pleasing to see Australian universities doing well again. America alone has around 7,000 such institutions so getting into the top 200 does mean something. I am personally pleased to see that three out of the four universities from which I have obtained qualifications are on the list. And given that my son is at ANU, their placing (38th worldwide) is pleasing too -- JR

SEVEN Australian universities have been named among a list of the world's top 200 higher education institutions.

The University of Melbourne is the highest placed Australian facility, in 37th place on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Leading the rankings is the California Institute of Technology, followed by fellow United States institutions Harvard University and Stanford University in equal second.

In an overall ranking of universities by country, Australia was placed seventh. A separate scale comparing universities relative to GDP sees Australia in 11th place and New Zealand 10th

Australia's second highest rating institution is the Australian National University (ANU) in equal 38th place, with the University of Sydney (58), University of Queensland (74), Monash University (equal 117), University of NSW (equal 173), and the University of Western Australia (equal 189).

New Zealand's University of Auckland gets a mention in equal 173th place.

Criteria such as teaching, research, innovation and international outlook were considered by researchers Thomson Reuters in compiling the 2011-2012 rankings. Each institution was ranked using a point-scoring system.


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