Sixth Circuit: Expelled Counseling Student Will Have Day in Court
January 27, 2012
In an opinion (.PDF) issued today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the civil rights suit filed by former Eastern Michigan University counseling student Julea Ward may proceed.
Ward was expelled from her graduate program after she inquired about referring a gay client during her student practicum due to her religious beliefs. Following her expulsion, Ward brought suit, alleging that the defendants—members of the review committee that expelled Ward, professors in Ward's graduate program, and the President and Board of Regents of the university—had violated her rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religious exercise under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In its ruling, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants, finding that "[w]hen the facts are construed in Ward’s favor, as they must be at his stage of the case, a reasonable jury could conclude that Ward’s professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith, not due to a policy against referrals."
The Sixth Circuit's reversal means the case returns to the district court. We'll have much more on this interesting and wide-ranging opinion here on The Torch Monday, but for now, it's worth reading the opinion in full.