The Counselor, The Mosque, and the Burqa

Apologies for being absent, I’m working my butt off right now, and making up for the time I took away in Japan and last week in New York.

I read with interest the news story about the young Christian woman who was blocked from a graduate school program in counseling because her religious scruples would prevent her from counseling gays.

And then I was kind of surprised to see some of the conservative blogs weighing in on the subject.

Ed Morrisey, Stacey McCain, Cassy Fiano and other cultural conservatives are up in arms.

They’re flatly wrong.

Let’s play Atticus Finch for a moment and do a thought experiment. What if she was a Muslim man? A devout Muslim man, who would refuse to treat woman or nonbelievers? Such a person seems pretty clearly disqualified from a role as a licensed counselor. A cleric, to be sure. But a state-licensed counselor?

I’m thinking no.

And thinking about that issue started me thinking about the broader question of the appropriate boundaries around religious actions.

And that brings me to the Ground Zero Mosque.

For me it really comes down to who’s behind it and what it will be used for,

Look, I do think that Islam is an expansive religion with some aspects I don’t like much (I’m not talking about Wahabbism or about Salafism – different ballpark, game, league). I’m not big on Evangelical Christianity either, and yet a Calvary Chapel church just took over an empty warehouse/retail complex near my house, and the kids come around every month proselytizing or fundraising – and I pretty much see it as a part of my community. I’ve even gone for a neighborhood meeting there, and donated money for some of their programs and had my car washed there one Saturday morning by a bunch of enthusiastic teenagers.

I get it that many folks – and many folks here – think I’m deluded and that the war is with Islam itself. I don’t think so. That might happen, but rather than focusing all our energy on hating Bin Laden and Zawahari, why not spend a little time outhustling the ummah and proselytizing for our own way of life instead? We need to deal not only with their growth of radical Islam – the kind we need to kill people to stop – but with the plain growth of Islam itself.

So if the mosque and cultural center is going to be backed by people who are related to Wahabbi or radical networks…that’d be a flat “no.” If it will be used – and the uses set out in the permit process – as a religious and cultural center in ways that we approve of (that’d be no sermons by Abu Hamza), then “yes.”

As long as I’m riffing on this, the topic of the veil and burqua comes up as well.

I commute through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood these days (and I’ll say that young Orthodox moms SUV’s have taken over as the most frightening drivers in LA. How is it that they think they have to drive like they are in Israel? Is part of their religious education? Jeez…), and I certainly see a large share of people wearing religious garb, following the dictates of their religion by walking on Friday evening and Saturday rather than driving. I’m not particularly concerned about it (except for the mom/SUV driving part).

I’m more concerned about Muslim neighborhoods, and there’s one simple reason; because over and over again we hear about Muslim social norms being enforced by violence (although to be honest, the hard data is thin). I know formerly-Orthodox women who left their communities – and don’t look back over their shoulders in fear. It seems to be that as long as we keep hearing about force being used to keep young women behaving in religiously observant ways in Muslim communities, the attire – and the acceptance of the cultural differences it brings – is going to cause concern.

Perhaps rather than focusing on rules about what Islamic women should wear, let’s focus on the question of violence within Islamic communities that keeps women (and children) observant from fear, rather than devotion. There are Muslim organizations doing that now…we need to help their positions become the dominant ones.
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23 thoughts on “The Counselor, The Mosque, and the Burqa”

  1. A.L., are graduates of the EMU program automatically licensed by the state with no further exam or other requirement? If not, then I think you’re conflating two different things here.

    Also, one the one hand I wouldn’t agree that this young woman’s approach to exercising her Christian faith is a good one. Good heavens, Jesus spent a large part of his time talking to sinners, didn’t he? On the other, though, can’t we agree that this–if the claim is in fact true–is quite creepy:


    Ward’s attorneys claim the university told her she would only be allowed to remain in the program if she went through a “remediation” program so that she could “see the error of her ways” and change her belief system…

  2. The libertarian answer is the state shouldn’t be in the counseling business, or issuing licenses for same. This way, the whole question of a belief system test for counselors goes away.

  3. “I get it that many folks – and many folks here – think I’m deluded and that the war is with Islam itself. I don’t think so. That might happen, but rather than focusing all our energy on hating Bin Laden and Zawahari, why not spend a little time outhustling the ummah and proselytizing for our own way of life instead?”

    Because you just supported imposing Berufsverbot on a young Christan woman who is practicing our own way of life.

  4. @kaperker – most law schools won’t admit someone who’d be disqualified from the practice of law either. It’s a professional school, with a clear goal of professional certification…

    Marc

  5. Mi Marc,

    So President Obama, who opposes gay marriage and approximately half of the American voting population should not be allowed to be counselors because they disagree with you and the school about homosexual activity? I don’t think that is right or practical.

    I read the article you linked to and although the school says she would not counsel homosexuals, I didn’t see any proof that this is what the student in question actually said.

    After all counselors often work with people who are doing things the counselors believe to be wrong; whether it is murder, rape, child molestation, prostitution, theft, adultery, spouse abuse or drug use. Should counselors who object to these activities on moral or religious grounds be barred from the counseling profession?

    Just like many of those activities, sodomy is still against the law in many states.

    bq. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodomy_law#State_laws_at_time_of_2003_Supreme_Court_decision>

    and until a couple decades ago homosexuality was listed as a mental illness. And in fairness, if you have a group of people who make up about 7% of the population and who have way higher rates of suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, STD’s including AIDS and who engage in practices that that in addition to their gender preferences and/or identification, are statistically extreme (number of sexual partners, number of multi-partner sexual encounters, degree of risk in sexual activities etc) maybe the young woman has a therapeutic point in addition to her religious convictions.

    By the same logic anyone who has a faith based objection to abortion should not be allowed to practice medicine, right? And libertarians who object to drug and anti-prostitution laws should not allowed to be lawyers? People who object to human sacrifice shouldn’t be allowed to be anthropologists because they do not approach their subjects with the proper respect? Heck under this logic Atticus Finch should not have gotten his law degree because he believed something different than the prevailing social consensus. (yeah, I know he was advocating on behalf of the actual law but I think the point holds since I don’t think the faculty here is acting in defense of either a statutory or professional standard)

    And when some advocates of “inter-generational sex” take over a university counseling department and some students object to what they refer to, in their bigoted way, as “child molesters”, should they be kicked out? If the legal age of consent starts to drift back down to historical (and in some countries, current) norm of 12 or 15 should those who insist that “child marriage” is harmful be barred from counseling, law and teaching?

    And when the shoe is on the other foot and the culture becomes more socially conservative, as these things tend to go; should homosexuals, atheists, pagans and those who advocate bigamy or other practices be barred from counseling programs?

    These are all fairly complex issues and I don’t have the answers about where to draw the lines should be drawn, but we have traditionally give religious belief a wide benefit of the doubt. According to the 2007 Pew Attitudes Project as cited in this article

    bq. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Societal_attitudes_toward_homosexuality

    her beliefs actually reflect the majority opinion of the citizens of the US. So unless she has indicated that she intends to violate the law or the cannons of her profession (which I don’t believe has been proved) it is unfair to ban someone because of their religious faith which actually is consistent with the majority opinion of the country.

    The alternative is to abandon representative democracy and individual autonomy and have all policy set by a small elite that has access to “the truth” and can impose it on the rest of us. I don’t think that is what you are advocating but I think that is where the logic of your position leads you.

    Hope you enjoyed your vacation, pictures were great. Thanks for writing. I don’t always agree but I always pay attention to your arguments.

    Pat

  6. Let’s play Atticus Finch for a moment and do a thought experiment. What if she was a Muslim man? A devout Muslim man, who would refuse to treat woman or nonbelievers? Such a person seems pretty clearly disqualified from a role as a licensed counselor. A cleric, to be sure. But a state-licensed counselor?

    And yet such a person was found to be qualified for a full medical scholarship and a job as an Army psychiatrist. People who noted Hasan’s obvious performance problems kept their mouths shut, for fear of being branded as “intolerant”.

    The same politics that demanded that Hasan be allowed his job, now demands that this woman not be allowed hers. As you know very well, such judgments are based on no principle whatsoever, but on the political postures of the fleeting moment. At the moment, deference to the Muslim trumps gay rights. Race also trumps gay rights, and it trumps gender, too. Palestinian trumps Jew, and everything trumps Christian. And so on.

    I know you have no intention of defending this crooked Faro game, but I see little else here to defend. Should anyone who opposes abortion, personally or politically, be denied a state license? What if a court orders a rapist or pedophile to undergo counseling? Are they entitled to a like-minded individual?

  7. Some scattered thoughts for all and sundry:

    Ward wasn’t disqualified for “being Christian” or for “disapproving of homosexuality,” but as I understand it, “for refusal to do the assigned work,” which involved counselling homosexual clients in a training atmosphere– and there is no evidence that the assignment was in place as a philosophical weed-out.

    If you’re going to pick a fight, pick a fight over Jennifer Keaton, whose case (again, as I understand it) is quite different.

    Otherwise, many people have a distinct lack of sympathy for individuals who want to pick and choose their clients along clearly discriminatory and exclusionary lines.

    (In this vein, pharmacists who think they have a right to get between doctors and patients on the issue of, say, birth control can likewise pipe down and either do all of their job all of the time, or not at all.)

    I can hear the members of the overwhelming majority group of straight, white Christians oh-so-generously allowing as to how they wouldn’t mind it if someone set up shop and refused to serve them professionally, but that’s really beside the point, since those oh-so-generous people member of the overwhelming majority group and thus bravely face absolutely no possibility of going unserved, ever.

    Not so for members of minority groups, especially in thinly populated areas. Hence the need for the legal protections in the first place.

    I’m also getting pretty tired of anarchists masquerading as libertarians. No, the state should not be in the business of counselling. The state absolutely has an interest in regulating the practice of counselling, and in promoting the welfare of its citizens by promoting access to it.

    Feh– in that vein, a libertarian would laugh at Ward’s lawsuit in the first place, since clearly the school has the right to bounce any student that pissed it off and refused to do the work.

  8. MV:

    … those oh-so-generous people member of the overwhelming majority group and thus bravely face absolutely no possibility of going unserved, ever.

    Unless they run into somebody like Shirley Sherrod, right?

    Singling people out as members of an “overwhelming majority group” is not only discrimination, and racial discrimination, and religious and sexual discrimination, it is the dominant form of state-sponsored bigotry.

    I’m also getting pretty tired of anarchists masquerading as libertarians.

    I wouldn’t worry about those. The anarchists you have to look out for are the ones who have disguised themselves as the United States Department of Justice.

  9. Glen:

    Singling people out as members of an “overwhelming majority group” is not only discrimination, and racial discrimination, and religious and sexual discrimination, it is the dominant form of state-sponsored bigotry.

    How dare you? How dare you sit there, defending this woman’s personal bigotry– her refusal to serve in her student-professional capacity due to their sexual orientation– by labeling everyone else as a bigot? You’re mocking the very word and trying to rob it of all meaning.

    How dare you turn Julea Ward’s frustrated attempts to carve out some special status, some special right to pick and choose her assignments, into a badge of oppression? Is there some list I was never issued of “classwork Christians are not obligated to complete?” Do I have to worry that if I’m seeing a Christian doctor, he was allowed to skip out on evolutionary biology and will therefore be mis-dosing antibiotics and contributing to resistant strains? Do I have to worry that the high school history teacher was allowed to skip out on all the ancient history classes talking about material before 4004 BC?

    Is there a separate list of acceptable offensive classes for Muslims? For Jews? Maybe Muslim lawyers don’t have to learn any of that tedious business about how women have equal rights under the law? Is that good with you, Glen?

    You are not being oppressed. You are asking for, and not receiving, “separate but equal” status… and how dare you turn that into a claim of oppression?

    Have you no sense of shame?

  10. MV –

    Come off it. I’m not defending anybody’s personal bigotry, though I do defend the right of people to be bigots, within the peaceful limits of the law. The government certainly has the right to deny government employment to persons who don’t mete out equal treatment under the law. (In fact, recent experience suggests that the government needs to start exercising that right.) They should not have the right to unreasonably bar such people from private professional practice, or access to education.

    So I would prefer to go with the anarcho-syndicalist libertarians and get government out of the whole business, because the farther Leviathan sticks its giant pig-snout into health care, the more trouble we’re going to have.

    And I don’t know where all this “white skin privilege” stuff is coming from. Judging by her photo, I think Julea Ward is black.

    No, I have no shame, but I prefer the term brazen.

  11. bq. U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed Ward’s lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University. She was removed from the school’s counseling program last year because she refused to counsel homosexual clients.

    Darn! I hate it when I do that. I didn’t read the article in question carefully enough and missed the above quote and the paragraph later where she is accused of violating the ACA code of ethics.

    I suspect the matter is not as cut and dry as the article reports but it does seem the school at least has a prima facia case.

    That puts things in a different light and invalidates most of my arguments. I apologize for not being more thorough before posting.

    Pat

  12. They should not have the right to unreasonably bar such people from private professional practice, or access to education.

    She had her chance. She was accepted into the program. Then she chose not to avail herself of it, by treating the work requirements like a salad bar instead of requirements.

    So, yes, I acknowledge her right to be a bigot, too; I deny her right to carve out a special educational status because of it.

    As I said, if you’re going to pick a fight, pick a fight over Jennifer Keaton. Picking the fight over Julea Ward puts you distinctly on the wrong end.

    And I don’t know where all this “white skin privilege” stuff is coming from. Judging by her photo, I think Julea Ward is black.

    I was referring to people like Morissey, McCain and Fiano; not Julea Ward, but her supporters.

  13. AFAIK, law schools don’t screen for unpopular views, but state licensing authorities have in order to keep out communists and racists. Thing is, those who consider themselves civil libertarians abhor this. The ACLU and ADL oppose this. To quote Alan Dershowitz, when asked why he was willing to represent white supremacist Matt Hale’s effort to get a law license:

    “My fear was that if he was kept out of the bar, members of the Jewish Defense League, or radical black activists, or radical feminists could be kept out of the bar too on the basis of ideology.”

    Another of Matt Hale’s supporters was law professor George Anastaplo, who was denied a law license by the same licensing body for refusing to answer whether he was a member of the communist party.

    I believe that the government, through it’s licensing arms, should not discriminate on the basis of ideology, whether Muslim or Christian, Communist or Racist. If she can’t find gainful employment due to her beliefs, that’s her burden to bear.

  14. PD, I agree with all of that, with the caveat that she must actually do the work. Otherwise, the opposite problem will happen, with every religious, ethnic, and other subgroup claiming special exemptions from their own courses of study.

    I say three times, fight this fight with respect to Jennifer Keaton, not with respect to Julea Ward.

    (And even there, I might be misunderstanding the Keaton issue. Details on Julea Ward are difficult to dig up because once you know the full story– she copped out on a mandatory assignment– it becomes a total non-issue and non-newsworthy item. Consequently, the pundits moved in to fill that vacuum with not-quite-untrue half-stories calculated to piss people off. The same may be true of the Keaton case.)

  15. @Patrick – there’s a world of difference between not supporting gay marriage or – for that matter – murder, and being unwilling to counsel gays (or murderers).

    That’s the crux; no one is asking her to suddenly start marching in Equality Day parades – just to do her job.

    There’s a classic line I’ve heard my Christian friends say – love the sinner, hate the sin.

    Marc

  16. marcus, requiring her to do the work begs the question when the school decides on inflexible work criteria. My wife is a licensed therapist and there are clients she declines to see (pedophiles), and refers them to someone else in the group. That is as far as I know common practice in medicine, as well, so long as there is not an emergency and someone else in the group can handle it.

    That appears to be what Julie Ward did — she saw a homosexual on her schedule seeking relationship counseling and asked her supervisor for the client to be re-assigned to another student and the supervisor agreed it could be done. What’s particularly silly is this client’s interest would not have been met by discussing relationship issues with Ward, would they?

  17. I still have no sympathy for Ward, here.

    She is a student. She does not get to dictate the terms of her education to her educators. That makes me a hard-ass, yes, but it does not make Ward’s treatment unfair or oppressive.

    A.L.’s response is dead-on: Do male Muslim students get to refuse to see female clients? Does Matt Hale’s fictitious brother get to turn away black clients?

    No.

    Just just because it is wrong to discriminate against black people, or women, or homosexuals, but because it is wrong to allow groups small or large (muslims, black people, white people, women, homosexuals, christians, geeks talking on message boards, or any others) to write special rules for themselves and reject the rules they don’t care for.

    In this case, the supervisor was wrong, too, and most likely because the correct course of action– monitor her closely and guide her through the experience to make sure she does serve the client’s interest– would have taken actual effort.

    No sympathy.

  18. marcus, you don’t have to be sympathetic to her; you don’t have to like her; that’s usually a given for civil libertarian causes.

    What I am saying is that in the real world she did what she is supposed to do, which is refer clients she may have a moral problem with counseling. She received an “A” in this program for a paper about the potential for religious-based conflicts in counseling, to which she concluded:

    “In situations were [sic] the value
    differences between a counselor and client are not amenable, ‘standard practice’
    requires that the counselor refer his/her client to someone capable of meeting their
    needs.”

    She did that, the school program was amenable to that, but then the review board decided to make an example of her by questioning and challenging the sincerity or genuineness of her religious beliefs in a way the judge found “unfriendly and arrogant.”

    Anyway, I think the ADL is right about ideological tests for public school programs or licenses and wrong about Ground Zero.

  19. But she’s not in the real world, PD. She’s a student. As you said in your prior example, this may be done in the real world so long as there is no emergency– but the point of being in training also extends to being able to handle emergencies and exigent circumstances.

    Everything about Ward’s stance, here, is wrong in my opinion. She’s a student, and so has no standing (or at best, a severely diminished standing) to determine what appropriate training is– if she knew that, she wouldn’t need the training. (I apply this to my own field, too. I had no sympathy for engineering undergrads who thought they had the standing to tell me what they did and didn’t need to know in order to be engineers. I have even less sympathy, now.)

    She is, as a student, trying to pick and choose her assignments. And in doing so, she is setting a dangerous precedent for all other groups to do the same thing. Much like one vaccinations, one aberration is not a problem, but the precedent, adopted at large, is toxic to civil society. I will not sanction it, I will not agree with it, I will not change my opinion on any variation of the arguments I have seen thus far.

    Let her go get a degree from a private institution that doesn’t take tax dollars if she wants to stand on her religion and discriminate against others.

    Let her get her degree and go into private practice and discriminate all she wants, to within the limits of the law. But get the damn degree first.

  20. Marcus,

    I think you have the context reversed. The SCOTUS has ruled that the state cannot, through its schools or licensing, preclude someone from a profession based upon belief and their inquiries into those beliefs is also protected by the First Amendment. That is a relatively recent (40 years) and welcome development.

    The district court here ruled that there was a viewpoint neutral reason for the state discriminating against her beliefs. The school seeks to maintain accreditation with the American Counseling Association and incorporates its Code of Ethics in it’s master’s program and the State of Michigan requires its licensed counselors to comply with the same Code. The Court agreed with the School that her conduct violated the Code of Ethics (IMO a vague set of Hallmark card sentiments) and thus it was reasonable to exclude her from a program dedicated her to a career she could never have.

    If the court is correct, she will never be a counsellor because she believes homosexual conduct is immoral. That is certainly contrary to other licensing programs in which the professional is seen as a person having moral views, that these views should not be pushed onto the client, and the best approach to moral conflict is referral.

    BTW/ She said she was willing to counsel homosexuals, just not about homosexual activities. I think it’s false to analogize this with racial/gender discrimination.

  21. PD,

    I would be more persuaded if any of the following were true:

    1) The school conspired to expose Christian students to uncomfortable circumstances; especially if it were only Christian students, or

    2) If, in accidental situations with other groups, the school had a policy of excusing them but not excusing Christians, or

    3) The school went after her for speech or activities outside the classroom and outside assigned work. (See, again Jennifer Keaton.)

    Failing that, I see no discrimination against her, only the failure to grant special treatment.

  22. _So if the mosque and cultural center is going to be backed by people who are related to Wahabbi or radical networks…that’d be a flat “no.” If it will be used – and the uses set out in the permit process – as a religious and cultural center in ways that we approve of (that’d be no sermons by Abu Hamza), then “yes.”)_

    Doesn’t that put us in the uncomfortable position of trying to play referee on some rather complex theological divides in Islam, in order to figure out when the line you’re positing has been crossed? Would refusing at some point in the future to allow “Ba’hai”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ba%27hai to use the center be too far? How about refusing to allow “Shi’a”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shia_Islam to worship there?

    Also, if the site is going to be privately owned, doesn’t infringement on how the site is used come under the “First Amendment”:http://candst.tripod.com/crs1sta2.htm? Even if that means running the risk that the site gets sold at some point to a Wahabbi sect, and (to pose a scenario) in 2026 facing the prospect of there being a ceremony celebrating _the sacrifice of the “19 martyrs of 9/11″:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijackers_in_the_September_11_attacks here, the place of their righteous action?_ (as it might be stated by those with jihadist sympathies)

    I don’t think we can realistically put conditions on its use, any more than you can say to the Catholics “OK, you can build a cathedral, just as long as it doesn’t ever get sold to the “SSPX”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_Pius_X” or to the Baptists “Fine, as long as it never gets used by “Fred Phelps’s sect”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Phelps .

  23. I was a Commercial Real Estate Broker in Mew York and Lived 3 blocks north of the World Trade center and plied my trade in the same area.

    From what I can see, this muslim Group owns the Property which they want to tear down and replace it with a Muslim Center. They have received permission from the local Planning Board.

    Unless someone can come up with evidence that these owners are a terrorist group or are conspiring to commit criminal acts, I do not think there is any chance that the owners can be stopped. *NOR SHOULD THEY BE STOPPED.*

    Property rights are pretty important as they form a major part of the bedrock on which our Judicial System is standing.

    It seems to me that this is pretty cut and dry.

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