Christians Need Not Apply: The New Gatekeepers of Graduate Schools
Caught in the Way of the Ungodly
The word on the street is that stand-alone abortion clinics are not profitable anymore. The abortion industry must add non-abortion services in order to stay in business. According to a pro-life group called Operation Rescue, in 1991 there were 2,200 abortion clinics, but today there are just 713. In North Dakota, where this author went to law school, there was only one abortion clinic.
However, it is much harder to convert an abortion clinic into an all-service clinic than to merely add abortion services to an existing hospital. The major roadblock to this alternative plan is you—the Christians who make up a sizeable portion of the nurses and doctors at hospitals. Recently a lawsuit was filed against Mount Sinai Hospital in New York for forcing a nurse to assist in an abortion against the nurse’s wishes. This will happen more and more in other areas of the medical field, such as when pharmacists conscientiously object to prescribing the long-contested RU486 or “ella,” the FDA’s most recently approved abortion pill.
Christians also face coercion in other arenas. Biblically-oriented professionals have had homosexuality forced upon them in the workplace. Photographers refusing to photograph homosexual “marriage” ceremonies, counselors and social workers refusing to condone homosexuality, and doctors refusing to artificially inseminate a lesbian woman, have all suffered lawsuits. Instead of acknowledging an individual’s right to object, homosexuals have initiated lawsuits in hopes of receiving an activist judge who will rule in their favor.
From the perspective of advocates for abortion and homosexuality, the root of the problem seems obvious: all the institutional headaches come from conservative Christian professionals.
From the perspective of advocates for abortion and homosexuality, the root of the problem seems obvious: all the institutional headaches come from conservative Christian professionals. Voters cherishing a natural law ethic have helped to pass religious freedom and rights of conscious laws in many states, ensuring that Christian professionals are not forced to do something against their religious beliefs. Due to the proliferation of these laws, once students graduate and receive a license it is almost impossible to strip them of it. Laws also prohibit an interviewer from considering religion when hiring. Instead, advocates for the new morality have fallen back to their intellectual headquarters—academia.
The new agenda for opponents of natural law is to stop conscientious Christians from becoming professionals in the first place. If you stop Christians at the gate, you not only prevent Christians from participating in their chosen profession, but you prevent Christians from having any influence on the future of the profession. With only “pro-choice” nurses available, nobody would object to assisting in an abortion. The tools in their arsenal include licensing boards, professors, and textbooks all carefully biased against the Christian confession of human nature.
Professors, Licensing Boards, and Textbooks Unite against Conscientious Christian Students
At Eastern Michigan University, professors for a masters program in counseling used their gate-keeping function to expel a student, Julea Ward. All students needed to take particular classes and participate in a “Practicum,” or hands-on experience, in order to graduate. Ms. Ward had not kept her Christianity a secret. She openly proclaimed adherence to Christianity both on her application to enter the program and during class discussions. Then one day Ms. Ward’s practicum supervisor, Dr. Callaway, scheduled a meeting with a new client, a homosexual. More specifically, the client was a homosexual who desired to continue in homosexuality.
Ms. Ward refused to accept the client and instead told Dr. Callaway that the client would have to go to another counselor. Dr. Callaway conducted an informal review of the situation. During the review, Ms. Ward was repeatedly told that she needed to “set aside” her Christian beliefs in order to properly complete the practicum. Dr. Callaway explained that this was necessary because the University abides by the American Counseling Association (ACA) standard of ethics. Ms. Ward chose to receive a formal hearing rather than “set aside” her Christianity.
At the formal hearing, Ms. Ward endured attacks from all sides. This included a “theological bout” in which Professor Francis, “a formerly ordained minister” of unknown origin, tried to catch Ms. Ward off-guard:
Francis: [l]s anyone more righteous than another before God?
Ward: Is anyone more righteous than another before God?
Ward: God says that we’re all the same.
Ward: That’s what God says.
Francis: OK, so, if that’s your direction ... how does that then fit with your belief that ... and I understand that you’re not, because the word you keep using is affirming, you’re not, which comes across as I’m not going to condone that behavior, I’m not going to affirm it, so I’m not going to go that way.
Francis: If that’s true, then aren’t you on equal footing with [persons engaging in homosexual behavior]? With, with everyone?
Ward: Absolutely, Dr. Francis.
Francis: OK. Then doesn’t that mean that you’re all in the same boat and shouldn’t [persons engaging in homosexual behavior] be accorded the same respect and honor that God would give them?
Ward: Well, what I would say is, again, I’m not making a distinguishable difference with the person . ... I’m addressing the behavior.
Francis: Okay, so it’s love the saint, condemn the sinner, or condemn the sin-I’m sorry.
Ward: If that’s the wording you want to use.
Francis: What wording would you use?
Ward: What I’ve just said. I’m not opposed to any person.... I believe that we are all, um, God loves us all, is what I believe.
Ms. Ward had tried to distinguish between homosexual behaviors, which she regarded as sinful, and homosexual persons, whom she desired to help. But all along it was her own behavior that the university sought to amend. Ms. Ward was unanimously dismissed from the counseling program. The formal document dismissing Ms. Ward stated in a condemning tone:
[B]y your own testimony, you declared that you are unwilling to change this behavior. Your stance is firm despite information provided directly to you throughout your program and discussions you acknowledge having with faculty regarding the conflict between your values that motivate your behavior and those behaviors expected by the profession.
The loaded words of “tolerance,” and “diversity” also were used to attack Ms. Ward’s Christian beliefs:
‘[The ACA Code states that counselors] are aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals. Counselors respect the diversity of clients. …’ … counselors are required to ‘actively attempt to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of the clients they serve,’ … and counselor educators are encouraged to infuse multicultural/diversity competency in their training programs. The ACA also binds counselors to comply with a nondiscrimination policy, which prohibits them from ‘condon[ing] or engag[ing] in discrimination based on … sexual orientation.’
Not only did the professors and the accreditation body, ACA, seek to silence conscientious Christians, but the textbook used in Ms. Ward’s class also opposed Ms. Ward’s biblical convictions, dismissing the reality of natural law as mere personal bias:
The textbook then further contemplates how counselors should handle issues related to homosexuality and bisexuality: If you hope to work effectively with these [homosexual] clients, it is absolutely essential that you begin by becoming aware of and challenging your own attitudes and assumptions about homosexuality and bisexuality. It is also essential that you identify your own biases, challenge any myths and misconceptions that you might hold, and that you be open to understanding how your values regarding sexual orientation are likely to affect your work. … Helpers who may work with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are ethically obligated not to allow their personal values to intrude into their professional work. Note that the ethics codes of the ACA (2005), the APA (2002) … clearly state that discrimination, or behaving differently and usually unfairly toward a specific group of people, is unethical and unacceptable.
In a nutshell: 1) professors in rebellion against the natural law of human sexuality are trying to expel a conscientious Christian; 2) a guideline from a licensing board is being used as legal grounds to expel a conscientious Christian; and, finally, 3) the textbook—meant to educate students on their new profession—serves to convert Christians to secular thinking. Nor do these things occur by coincidence. The licensing board accredits the professor, the professor chooses the textbook, and the student is expected to succumb to the influence of all three.
Curiously, these textbooks seem to ‘challenge’ only the attitudes of conscientious Christians and other adherents to natural law. Whether in counseling psychology, or sociology, or other related fields, the textbooks of our postmodern era never seem to challenge atheists about God, feminists about family values, or homosexuals on whether or not their sexuality is a choice.
Curiously, these textbooks seem to “challenge” only the attitudes of conscientious Christians and other adherents to natural law. Whether in counseling psychology, or sociology, or other related fields, the textbooks of our postmodern era never seem to challenge atheists about God, feminists about family values, or homosexuals on whether or not their sexuality is a choice. Without exception, the dominant textbooks promote a change of heart in one direction only: for those in tune with natural law to abandon the heritage of human nature in favor of political propaganda narrowly focused around the affirmation of abortion, homosexuality, and other planks of the new morality.
Ms. Ward challenged Eastern Michigan University’s decision in federal court with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of Christian lawyers. Ms. Ward lost at the district court level (Ward v. Wilbanks, 2010 WL 3026428 [E.D.Mich., 2010]). Judge George Steeh, a Clinton appointee, gave a surprisingly candid statement affirming the right of the professors of a public university to select which values they want to encourage and which values they think should cause a student to be dismissed:
The Supreme Court has recognized the ‘fundamental role’ of public education in ‘maintaining the fabric of our society.’ …Therefore, public educational institutions have been given considerable deference by the judiciary in determining their own academic standards. Some courts have held that a compelling interest in public education includes designing and teaching a curriculum as the State sees fit.
There is, however, something disingenuous in equating the consensus of public university professors with “a curriculum as the State sees fit.” Neither voters nor their elected representatives ever get to approve the curricula of higher education. Ms. Ward, for her part, is appealing her case.
Closing the Gate Earlier: The Tactic of Conditional Admission to Graduate School
At Le Moyne College in New York, a college founded by Jesuits, Scott McConnell was admitted into the Master of Science for Teachers program on a conditional basis. A letter explained to him that “upon completion of all admission and/or course deficiencies, your status will change to full matriculation.” Mr. McConnell finished the courses and should have then become a fully matriculated student. However, he received another letter from the College, this time by the Chair of the Education Department and Director of the Graduate Education Program stating that she had “grave concerns [about] the mismatch between [his] personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the [Program’s] goals.” Mr. McConnell, therefore, was not allowed to register into the program. The College claimed that Mr. McConnell was not a fully matriculated student because he had not been subjected to a “final determination.”
Mr. McConnell, with legal representation by the Center for Individual Rights, filed a complaint with a New York court and received an injunction, stopping the College from removing him from the program (McConnell v. Le Moyne College, 25 A.D.3d 1066, 808 N.Y.S.2d 860 [N.Y.A.D. 4 Dept., 2006]). The problem for the College was procedural: they had not listed the “final determination” as a last step in any of their material. The court focused solely on this reason as to why they ruled in favor of Mr. McConnell, but that is only half the story.
The real story is that Mr. McConnell wrote a paper that challenged the College’s multiculturalism—a cloak for moral relativism—and another paper that expressed support for corporal punishment. These values, deemed inappropriate by the gatekeepers of higher education, caused the controversy. Although most judges like to keep as narrow a holding as possible, it is worth noting that the court never uttered a word as to whether the College had a right to reject a student based on his beliefs.
This case is particularly troublesome because the gate-keeping function sought to keep a suspiciously traditional student from even being admitted into a graduate program. Ms. Ward was at least allowed to participate in the program. In both cases the academy sought to stop Christians from ever getting professional degrees. If successful in blocking the advancement of Christians in higher education, they will have fewer roadblocks in the future to their agenda of dismantling the natural law foundation of a just society.
A Glimpse toward the Future
Recently in San Francisco, the American Bar Association, despite only being comprised of 25% of the legal profession, announced on behalf of the legal profession that it will pass a resolution to advocate for same-sex “marriage.” This step was the first of the three steps that sent Ms. Ward away from her profession. The American Bar Association’s resolution is similar to the resolution passed by the American Counseling Association and other accrediting bodies. Will the next generation of law school graduates be ineligible for the bar unless they affirm a “professional” commitment to promoting immorality?
At times as trying as these, Christians need not shy away from controversy. ... St. Paul ... exercised what civil rights he had. ‘I appeal to Caesar’ (Acts 25:11). Second, he recognized that the legal arena formed only a small part of a much grander scheme, in which Christ His Savior would bring him the final victory.
At times as trying as these, Christians need not shy away from controversy. Let us remember St. Paul’s two-part example. First, he exercised what civil rights he had. “I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11). Second, he recognized that the legal arena formed only a small part of a much grander scheme, in which Christ His Savior would bring him the final victory. “The Lord will deliver me,” he wrote to Timothy from prison, “from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). Just as Christians learn on Easter to view the events of Good Friday as triumph, not defeat, so also St. Paul guides our analysis of contemporary persecutions that Christians suffer in the university and beyond (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, ESV):
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Bernardo Cueto, J.D., a Lutheran convert from atheism, serves as clerk of the La Crosse County Circuit Court in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where he resides with his wife, Heather, and children, Klaus and Thor. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law and an allied attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund.
Suggested citation: Cueto, Bernardo. “Christians Need Not Apply: The New Gatekeepers of Graduate Schools.” The Hausvater Project, Sept. 2010. www.hausvater.org.
TAGS: Religious Liberty, Created Male and Female, Chastity