Alex Blaze

Homophobic Counselor Files Religious Discrimination Suit

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 31, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: charles wilson, James O'Keefe, lawsuit, LGBT, religion, sting, udge

A CDC-contracted counselor refused to help a lesbian woman and got fired. Now she's filing suit saying her religious beliefs were violated:

counseling.jpgThere's no dispute that a woman came to Marcia Walden in 2007 for advice involving a same-sex relationship, and Walden was let go after she told the woman she couldn't help because her "personal values" as a devout Christian prevented her from offering any assistance. The woman, who was not named in legal filings, complained to administrators that she felt "judged and condemned" by Walden after the encounter.

The company that the CDC had hired to provide counseling services, Computer Sciences Corporation, terminated Walden at the CDC's request.[...]

"She was targeted for mistreatment based on her religious beliefs," said Campbell, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative religious rights organization that took the case. "It's not her burden to come up with an excuse. She was offered one dishonest option -- to say she didn't have the expertise to handle the case -- and she refused it."

Please. The counselor had the option to refer the client to someone else without saying anything (already generous, in my opinion), but she chose to lecture the client on her sex life instead. A religious edict that says that professionals must insult strangers (on the government's dime, naturally) should not be accommodated by any employer worth their salt, much less the government of a modern democracy.

As always, I have to point out that these are the exact same people who would be calling for the deportation of all Muslims if there were a Muslim counselor who refused to help a lesbian client. The accommodation that the counselor is asking for isn't reasonable in any conventional sense - it's a reasonable accommodation if one assumes that Christians should have the right to do whatever they want by virtue of being the majority religion in this country.

There'll be more and more of these sorts of suits, but at least judges are being rational about them... for now:

The three-judge panel didn't immediately rule, but two of the judges expressed skepticism about Walden's case. U.S. Circuit Judge Charles R. Wilson questioned whether Walden even had grounds to bring the lawsuit.

Also, this is why liberals don't need someone like James O'Keefe to perform "stings" and edit tapes to make the other side look bad. Conservatives already do it enough on their own.

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I hope she wins her case..

Yes, there will be more cases like this. Recently some of us PFLAG parents spoke to a counseling class at a university. We told the class that it is a good idea not to put religious sayings or hangings in their (future) offices because a lot of GLBT kids have had bad experiences with some religious institutions. One of the students told us she couldn't deny her faith. We told her that her first priority on her job will be her students and their safety, not her faith. I don't think she really understood. I wonder how she will treat any GLBT students who come to her for help.

This counselor was contracted to provide her services to achieve or further the goals of the CDC -- what ever those happened to be in this case.

She was NOT contracted in regard to any religious or moral counseling, nor can she impose or encourage her personal religious viewpoints while working as an agent of the CDC. In other words, she was not doing her job properly or to the satisfaction of her employer. Thus, they owe her nothing.

While the counselor is clearly at fault here -- she apparently can't separate her personal life from her professional life properly -- I think the CDC is also at fault, because they should screen for such problems before they accept a counselor for the contracted work. As is so often the case in government work, someone forgot to rinse behind their ears.

If you conscience will not allow you to help someone or be impartial refer them as already mentioned. Also bear in mind you knew full well what might be expected on such a job. If you did not want to fulfill that due to you religious beliefs you should have chosen a job that would allow you to dissent.

SammySeattle | March 31, 2011 10:18 PM

Was this woman a member of the American Counselors Association? If so, she was acting in direct conflict to the Code of Ethics that govern members.

She claims that she has tons of experience in relationship counseling. She then claims that by saying that she does not have the expertise to handle the patient's situation, she would have been forced to lie.

But the question here is "Do you have experience in same-sex relationship counseling?" Based on your actions, clearly you don't. That or you do have sufficient training, but you've chosen not to use it...ever.

If it's the former, then you should have explained that you are not equipped to handle the situation, since you clearly weren't equipped to handle a same-sex relationship scenario.

If it's the latter, then you were hired under false pretenses, since I assume that when you are hired as a counselor, it is always under the impression that you will utilize ALL your training, rather than pick and choose which situations you will or will not address and which parts of your education you will use.

As mentioned above, if you want the freedom to pick and choose your clientele, find a job that allows you to do that. By remaining, you make it known to employees that the counseling project is NOT for all employees and not for all matters that it was created for. Your presence and actions completely compromise the project. You are not equipped and you should be removed.

I don't know what kind of counseling was involved here and they probably don't have the right to say. The contractor was "Computer Sciences Corporation," and I don't see anything on their site about relationship counseling, so maybe the term was being used more broadly: disease counseling, genetic counseling, etc.

Does the CDC provide relationship counseling? I've never heard of that before.

She was a counselor, contracted by an agency (CSC). By "counselor", it means she was an individual who provided therapy or emotional resources for employees who come with any issues, like a school counselor. CDC is just the organization whose employees she served, haha. Just because she works at the CDC doesn't mean she does genetic counseling or anything like that. ;)

Brad Bailey | April 1, 2011 1:39 AM

The Alliance Defense Fund exists for no other purpose than to take on cases like this. It has trained over 1200 lawyers to this end. Even though it's a non-profit group, it has virtually unlimited resources from wealthy religious conservative groups across the country.

They lose a lot of their cases, but it's not that they're bad lawyers, but that their cases are ridiculous. I guess they think they're loosening the pickle jar.

Amy Hunter Amy Hunter | April 1, 2011 5:55 AM

In 2009, an Eastern Michigan University graduate student was kicked out of the counseling program for violating it's code of ethics. The violation? Refusing to counsel a same-sex couple. The student sued, claiming her 1st amendment rights had been violated. The 6th circuit court disagreed; the student appealed. Just last month, Michigan's newly elected Attorney General, Bill Schuette, personally filed a brief in support of the student and her Alliance Defense Fund attorneys. It's no secret here in Michigan, (the land of Andrew Shirvell) that Devos and Prince money drives much of the politics but, never has it been so brazenly flaunted as in this instance.

This suit will almost certainly fail. But if it succeeds, then my course of action is clear. I will get a job as a phleobotomist, become a Jehovah's Witness, then demand to collect my salary without doing anything because it would violate my beliefs against blood transfusions.