CDC Counselor Fired After Refusing Gay Woman, Now Suing

by Greg Bluestein .
Friday Apr 1, 2011

A woman who worked as a counselor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims she was wrongly fired because of religious discrimination for refusing to advise a woman in a same-sex relationship, and she asked a federal appeals court Thursday to let her bring a lawsuit against the Atlanta-based agency.

There'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.

The CDC and the company told the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that Walden could have simply referred the employee to another counselor without explanation. They argued that Walden's religious beliefs didn't require her to tell the client about her moral objections to engaging in same-sex relationship counseling.

"The CDC intervened and said we can't have a counselor who wants to exclude an entire segment of the population," said Jeffrey Schwartz, an attorney for the contractor. "It would destroy the integrity of the program. People don't want to come in and see a counselor if they are going to be kicked in the knees."

CDC attorney Matthew Collette added that the firm's contract allows a counselor with a religious conflict to refer a case to another staffer, but bars the counselor from broadcasting feelings that "would cause potentially serious damage" to the program.

Walden's attorneys countered that she was left little other option by the CDC and the contractor but to object on religious grounds. Attorney Jim Campbell said she was instructed to tell the client she didn't have the experience to handle the case, even though she had extensive background in helping clients with relationship issues.

"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."

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.

Campbell, though, said the panel needed to step in to decide whether the CDC infringed on her "sincerely held religious beliefs."

"Counselors have an ethical obligation to refer - and that's in the highest interest of the client so they can get the best advice," said Campbell. "And that's what happened in this case."

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


  • QUEEN BEE, 2011-04-01 10:40:03

    i’m glad she was fired, your jopb description is to help all. GOD is not judgemental, i’m glad she was fired, and i hope she search out her soul, and think about how her family maybe treated. It sickens me. how people hide behind religion, look what happen to all the so call straight evangelist’s. LORD HAVE MERCY.

  • Ryan Nix, 2011-04-01 18:50:39

    She got fired for not doing here job. And for religious reasons she didn’t do here job. It could have been any reason, she still would have been fired for not doing her job.

  • , 2011-04-01 21:18:55

    sounds like she’s a judgmental bigot who has no business counseling anybody and needs to keep her voodoo beliefs in church ...good riddance. Too bad we have to pay for her unemployment

  • , 2011-04-01 22:18:29

    She deserves to be fired until she learns how to separate church and state.

  • Rosebud, 2011-04-02 11:43:55

    She was fired b/c instead of saying, "Oh, relationship issues...let me get you a counselor who handles those..." she wanted to bash a gay person. She deserves to be fired, and I suspect she knew exactly what would happen and chose the course of action to provoke the firing. Now the idiot fundy Christians can say, "Oh, see how we face persecution!!" That is a lie, of course, but fundy Christians don’t mind lying at all when it serves their purpose.

  • nick, 2011-04-02 15:46:30

    I’m glad she was fired. By not showing self-restraint in broadcasting her moral objections, she did harm to a patient seeking counseling in a vulnerable situation. I hope this person comes forward to sue Ms. Walden for mental anguish and suffering. Shame on Ms. Walden - she’s a lousy human being and not a very good Christian either!

  • , 2011-04-03 23:08:44

    How heartless is this woman? How ironic that her religion prevented her from helping or, at the very least, referring someone in need.

  • , 2011-04-04 09:11:35

    someday where there’s isn’t religion there might be a better clear realistic world...someday

  • eJohn, 2011-04-04 12:17:33

    Am I the only one that sees how idiotic a statement like, "because of my Christian beliefs, I cannot offer you assistance" is??? Jesus wept.

  • , 2011-04-04 22:05:04

    Is this the kind of counselors The Center For Disease Control is now hiring? Was she upfront about her Anti-Gay Bigotry or did she lie like most fundamentalist christians.Did The Center For Disease check her gradentials. How can the Center For Disease Control allow someone like this bigot get through the hiring process.This case will not lend any good credability to the CDC but take from its credability. After reading this I cerioussly do not want to go to the CDC for any counseling. What is next for the CDC? Are they going to hire a member of the KKK?

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