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    One court says censorship extends to elementary, middle school and colleges

    Date: 03.05.12 | by Judge Tom.

    Julea Ward was a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University. She was studying to be a counselor. In one of her courses, she was required to work with a gay student. Julea’s religious beliefs prevented her from affirming the client’s sexuality. Consequently, she refused to counsel the student.

    The University expelled Julea from the counseling program, claiming she acted unethically. Ethical standards require that counselors not allow their personal values intrude into their professional work.

    Julea sued the University claiming that she shouldn’t have been forced to affirm homosexual behavior in view of her religious beliefs. Doing so, she asserted, violated her First Amendment right to freedom of religion. In January, 2012, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court where a jury will decide if the University punished Julea for her religious expression.

    Nan Goldin (Flickr)

    The Court also commented on the First Amendment rights of students in educational settings. In other words, can the University discipline Julea for refusing to speak (counsel a student) as part of the curriculum. The Court cited the 1988 Hazelwood decision by the U. S. Supreme Court.  “The Hazelwood test, it is true, arose in the context of speech by high school students, not speech by college or graduate students,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote for the 6th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “But for the same reason this test works for students who have not yet entered high school. . ., it works for students who have graduated from high school. The key word is student.”

    Because of the maturity level of college students who, for the most part, are over age 18 and adults, the application of Hazelwood is questionable. The Sixth Circuit’s ruling in this case applies only in Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. There are 11 Circuits in the United States, each with jurisdiction over specific states. The Ninth Circuit in western United States, for example, includes nine states, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Appeals from decisions of the Circuit Courts go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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