Jennifer Keeton (photo) is seeking a court order allowing her to take part in clinical training at Augusta State University as part of the school’s counselor education program so she can graduate and turn to practicing conversion therapy, work to “cure” gay people and tell them that homosexuality is morally wrong.
The school put Keeton on academic probation and threatened to expel her unless she abided by a remediation plan that included having her attend gay events and mingle with LGBT people.
Keeton lost her initial court case and turned to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for help. Her attorneys argued that Keeton’s First Amendment rights were violated; the school countered that its counseling program would risk its accreditation if it didn’t hold her to a code of ethics that requires students to counsel LGBT people.
From the Associated Press:
“The university has a responsibility when putting students in a practicum and graduating them,” [Cristina Correia with the state Attorney General’s office] said. “When you have that kind of evidence, the faculty could not, under their ethical standards, put that student in a clinical setting without further remediation.”
Keeton, who said she’s a devout Christian “committed to the truth of the Bible,” enrolled in the school’s counselor education program in fall 2009 and soon began discussing her views that sexual behavior is a personal choice and that gender identity isn’t subject to change.
Faculty members were alarmed after she wrote in a term paper that it would be hard with her to work with gay clients. The school told her that her language was unethical according to guidelines from the American Counseling Association, and she was put on probation and warned she could be expelled.
The case has drawn national attention. Keeton’s lawsuit was brought by the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund.
“[Augusta State University] faculty have promised to expel Miss Keeton from the graduate Counselor Education Program not because of poor academic showing or demonstrated deficiencies in clinical performance, but simply because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she holds to Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and gender identity,” the ADF says in the lawsuit.
The ACLU and the gay Lambda Legal also weighed in, supporting the school.
“We’re all entitled to our own religious beliefs, but counselors cannot use their religion to discriminate against students who come to them for help,” Louise Melling, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “This is especially important for LGBT students in crisis, who may have already faced rejection and judgment from their community, and who may not have any other trusted adult to talk to.”
Lambda has called Keeton’s planned approach to LGBT clients “unethical and dangerous.”
The case also drew scores of comments to a blog post from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Maureen Downey. The comments varied in the way you might expect – support for the school and support for Keeton and her religious beliefs.
OK…someone has to say it. Homosexuality is wrong. All you pseudo christians consult your Bible…see Leviticus.
The College’s actions are in line with the ethics standards. Tell me, would you want your therapist telling you that your cancer is caused by the fact you are are a sinner? Or how about telling a rape victim that because she doesn’t dress in the hijab, it was her fault she got raped?
Photo from Alliance Defense Fund