As a counselor, it is our job to help every client that walks through our door. We must help all clients no matter who they are, irregardless of their race, gender, religion, age, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, etc. This is not just a job requirement for me, laid out by ACA, but a part of who I am, and my desire to be accepting of others. Unfortunately, there are some who would like to be in the counseling profession, but do not want to help certain groups of people, based on their personal religious views. I am speaking of the recent court ruling by a federal judge involving a Christian student and Eastern Michigan University.
The student was enrolled in Eastern Michigan University’s counseling program had dreams of being a high school counselor. Throughout her studies she expressed her views that being gay, lesbian, and bisexual was morally wrong. She also said, in class discussions and assignments, that it was standard practice to refer clients whose values they disagreeed with to other counselors, this of course being inconsistent with our code of ethics. Things really got challenging when she began her practicum. She had an appointment scheduled, and had seen in the clients file that there had been a previous discussion about a gay relationship. The student counselor asked to refer the client to another counselor so that she would not have to affirm the clients sexuality. The supervising counselor cancelled the appointment because it was two hours away. The incident led to disciplinary hearings which concluded with her being kicked out of the counseling program.
To make a long story short, the student sued with help from the right wing group the Alliance Defense Fund. Her argument was that she had been discriminated against because of her religious views. The judge in the case sided with the university. He did not buy into her argument that her religious views can dictate who she can help. As a school counselor, I was happy to hear that in this case the correct decision was made. Think of the damage this person could have caused as a counselor working in one of our school systems. In high school I came out to my school counselor and she affirmed my identity, helped me through a situation, and made me feel safe and protected. I would have been horified if my counselor had rejected my being gay and refered me to another counselor. Thank goodness, barring a successful appeal from a higher court, this person will not be a high school counselor.
Sadly, there is a very similar case in Georgia against Augusta State University. The student counselor there was asked to go through sensitivity training or leave the program because of her belief that being gay is immoral. Hopefully, the courts will continue to affirm the ACA code of ethics and continue the slow march towards equality for the GLBT community in the US.
David McCord is a school counselor for Montgomery County Public Schools. His theoretical interest are in solution focused theory and play therapy.