House Education Committee votes on morality issue

In a heated discussion, the House Education Committee dealt another blow to universities' "local control" when it approved a bill and two resolutions that protect religious freedom for some.

HB 5040 prohibits any public university from disciplining or discriminating against a student in counseling, social work or psychology program who refused to provide services to a client with a different religious belief. The two resolutions call on President Obama and Congress to also legislate such protections.

The legislation stems from the Julea Ward case. She was dismissed from Eastern Michigan University’s counseling program in her senior year after she refused to work with a homosexual client because she held strong religious beliefs that did not condone homosexuality. The bill is named after her.

Some Republican Committee members attempted to take the moral high ground to challenge the testimony of Emily Dievendorf, policy director of Equality Michigan who opposed the bill. She cautioned Committee members that they were not elected to legislate morality.