Late yesterday afternoon, the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Augusta State University counseling student Jennifer Keeton. Her tale has to be read to be believed. Essentially, the facts are as follows.
Jennifer is a devout Christian and holds biblically orthodox views regarding sexual morality. In the context of classroom discussions of homosexual behavior, she expressed her Christian views, and has also shared those views with her classmates outside of class. She has stated, for example, that she believes that sexual behavior is the result of personal choice rather than an inevitability arising from deterministic forces.
These thoughts have displeased the counseling department, and it has expressed that displeasure in writing:
Another equally important question that has arisen over the last two semesters is Jen’s ability to be a multiculturally competent counselor, particularly with regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (GLBTQ) populations. Jen has voiced disagreement in several class discussions and in written assignments with the gay and lesbian “lifestyle.” She stated in one paper that she believes GLBTQ “lifestyles” to be identity confusion. This was during her enrollment in the Diversity Sensitivity course and after the presentation on GLBTQ populations.
. . .
Faculty have also received unsolicited reports from another student that [Miss Keeton] has relayed her interest in conversion therapy for GLBTQ populations, and she has tried to convince other students to support and believe her views. (Emphasis in original).
To alter Jennifer’s views, the faculty imposed a “remediation plan,” that included “diversity sensitivity training,” required Jennifer to read at least ten articles in peer-reviewed journals that “pertain to improving counseling effectiveness with GLBTQ populations,” and (my personal favorite) required that she “increase exposure and interaction with gay populations,” including a suggestion that she attend the “Gay Pride Parade in Augusta.”
As she did all these things, Jennifer was required to submit a monthly two-page “reflection paper” to describe how “her study has influenced her beliefs.” Counseling faculty would then decide, based on these “reflections” and two in-person meetings, whether she should continue in the program.
Her “remediation plan” ends with the ominous warning: “Please note that failure to complete all elements of the remediation plan will result in dismissal from the Counselor Education Program.”
It’s simply stunning that state officials mandate that students change their religious beliefs. It’s egregious enough that out-of-class speech can be punished with a “remediation plan,” but to reach into a student’s very heart and soul to determine whether they’re — in essence — a good enough person to graduate? The state hasn’t just stepped over the line, it’s jumped across with both feet.
Unfortunately, as numerous other cases from the fields of education
, social work
, and counseling
demonstrate, our public universities often see themselves high priests of the helping professions, where there is only one way to view key moral issues regarding sexuality, behavior, and identity. Yet there is room for disagreement. There is room for a Christian voice in the counseling profession.
To see Jennifer Keeton tell her story in her own words, click here