ADF to appeal decision against wrongly fired Ga. counselor

Christian counselor acted in best interests of client but loses job for honoring professional, ethical obligations
Friday, March 26, 2010

ATLANTA — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys will appeal a judge’s ruling against a licensed counselor fired after she referred a person seeking same-sex relationship counseling to a colleague. Rather than attempt to provide a service that would conflict with her sincerely-held religious beliefs, Marcia Walden acted in the best interests of the potential client and referred her to another counselor; however, the counselee later filed a complaint that ultimately cost Walden her job.

“A counselor who is a Christian shouldn’t lose her job for upholding the highest professional standards,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brian Raum. “It is unlawful to punish Marcia for following her Christian faith, particularly when she made every effort to accommodate the needs of a potential client. Referring her to another competent counselor instead of attempting to offer her own counsel in such a situation was the ethical thing to do for the person seeking help. It’s egregious to be fired for honoring professional and ethical obligations, and we regret the court didn’t see this. We will certainly appeal.”

On Aug. 21, 2007, a woman employed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sought counsel from Walden, a counselor at Computer Sciences Corporation, regarding a same-sex relationship.  Walden explained that the client’s needs would conflict with her values and that, therefore, it would not be fair to the potential client for her to serve as the woman’s counselor. As a result, Walden referred the individual to a colleague.

Walden has no religious objection to counseling someone who is involved in a same-sex relationship so long as the client does not seek counseling to directly affirm or promote that relationship. To be consistent with her religious beliefs, Walden cannot use her talents as a counselor to encourage or strengthen such relationships.

After meeting with the client, Walden’s colleague told her that she had done “the right thing” by referring the woman to him. However, the client later filed a complaint against Walden which led to an investigation and religiously-based questioning from Walden’s supervisors. She was later terminated as an employee.

The decision in Walden v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit in 2008.

In a separate counseling-related case, Ward v. Wilbanks, a federal court ruled Wednesday that professors who expelled a Christian student from the Eastern Michigan University counseling program may be held personally liable. EMU officials dismissed the student from the school’s counseling program because she would not agree to affirm homosexual behavior as morally acceptable.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.