Rebuffed by one court, counseling student seeks expulsion reprieve for her religious objections to gays

Jennifer Keeton is trying to stave off expulsion. (Alliance Defense Fund)

Jennifer Keeton is trying to stave off expulsion. (Alliance Defense Fund)

A grad student at Augusta State University who sued the school over a clash between her grad program requirements and her religious beliefs on gay people is now asking a federal appeals court to block the university from expelling her.

This is an interesting case.

In 2010, Jennifer Keeton, 24, sued after the college required her to complete a remediation program or face expulsion for her anti-gay beliefs. Her lawsuit states that her views on gays were known to faculty at the university because of her “disagreement in several class discussions and in written assignments with the gay and lesbian ‘lifestyle.’”

Backed by the nonprofit Christian advocacy Alliance Defense Fund, Keeton maintains in her lawsuit: “[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 faculty identifies Miss Keeton’s views as indicative of her improper professional disposition to persons of such populations.”

The college counters that it must hold its counseling graduate students “to the core principles of the American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor Association, which defines the roles and responsibilities of professional counselors in its code of ethics. The code is included in the curriculum of the counseling education program, which states that counselors in training have the same responsibility as professional counselors to understand and follow the ACA Code of Ethics.”

Keeton has already been rebuffed by the courts. Earlier this year, a U.S. district judge ruled in the university’s favor.

In supporting Augusta State in its actions,  the judge wrote, “The record suggests, and the testimony at the hearing bolsters, the Plan was imposed because Plaintiff exhibited an inability to counsel in a professionally ethical manner – that is, an inability to resist imposing her moral viewpoint on counselees – in violation of the ACA Code of Ethics.”

A classmate testified that Keeton said she would be compelled by her beliefs to tell gay or lesbian counseling clients that their behaviors were morally wrong and must be changed.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

137 comments Add your comment

Chuck Anziulewicz

November 29th, 2011
11:50 am

I think Jennifer Keeton is pursuing the wrong profession. I do a lot of counseling myself (in the context of HIV testing), and Ms. Keeton obviously is incapable of observing some of the concepts and skills in the counseling profession. As counselors we are supposed to focus on the feelings and personal circumstances of our clients, not our own personal prejudices and how we think things “ought” to be. We are supposed to manage our own discomfort with clients whose lives and values may be significantly different from our own. We are called to be non-judgmental and empathetic.

Judging from all the things I’ve read about Jennifer Keeton so far, I think she is far better suited to starting her own ministry, or perhaps going to work for one of the many “Family Values” lobbies.

Dr. Proud Black Man

November 29th, 2011
11:56 am

Is it just me or does this woman look like empathy is a foreign concept to her?

Un-american, Un-christian

November 29th, 2011
12:00 pm

Maybe Ms. Keeton means Fundamentalist “Christian ethical convictions”. My church is decidedly mainstream Methodist, and we don’t shun gays or hold up their personal lives as objects of wrong doing. Where I grew up in the midwest, we were taught that finding and expressing love of another individual and of humanity were the highest forms of godly expression for humans. The sex or gender identification of that other person is not part of the equation. If Ms. Keeton’s counseling behavior is at odds with the ACA, the school can lose it ability to accredit graduates. There are schools that will giver her the degrees she wants without vetting her planned counseling approaches. Marcus Bachmann received his Master’s in clinical therapy from Regent University and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Union Graduate School.

Warrior Woman

November 29th, 2011
12:04 pm

The school is wrong, and will ultimately lose if trends in other cases hold. It is not Ms. Keeton’s counseling behavior that is at question here. The school told her to change her religious beliefs or be expelled.

Chris Vogel

November 29th, 2011
12:05 pm

I guess poor Jennifer isn’t the first student to want the curriculum changed to corresponde to what she already thinks (makes exams so much easier). Too bad, though, that she imagines she is helping people while trying to destroy them. That’s religion for you; all vanity, malice, and wilful ignorance.

Prof

November 29th, 2011
12:17 pm

She is the one who chose to major in this field, a field whose national professional associations had announced parameters. I would say that Ms. Keeton’s real goal here is to change the “code of ethics” of those associations. For she isn’t being expelled from the graduate school, only this particular program in this particular field.

carlosgvv

November 29th, 2011
12:18 pm

Isn’t Michelle Bachmann’s husband in charge of a counseling service? Isn’t he on record as counseling against gay behavior? If so, isn’t he in violation of the ACA code of Ethics? I guess it’s easier to come down on a poor college student than the husband of a presidental contender.

Once Again

November 29th, 2011
12:18 pm

This is the fundamental issue with government supported educational establishments. When you steal money from everyone to pay for such “public” entities (or pretty much any government building, agency, etc.) you have a responsibility to accormodate everyone you are stealing from. As it should be. This would not be an issue for a private college, but even at private colleges you have taxpayer pilfered monies going for tuition grants and other things.

Private individuals, private businesses, etc. should be able to set their own standards of moral conduct so long as they do not harm the property or person of another without anyone interfering whatsoever.

The solution to all of the problems we face whether at government run schools or any other government entity is to get the government completely out of the picture so that no more money is taken from people involuntarily to pay for things they may not morally or ethically support. That is the definition of freedom. But once the money is stolen, expect everyone who pays to fight for their right to influence the outcome. All this ends up doing is driving up the cost of everything while lawyers make huge sums dealing with the inevitable lawsuits.

Time to restore freedom by getting government out of our lives.

Inman Park Boy

November 29th, 2011
12:24 pm

Once wer were asked to “tolerate” opposing views. Now it seems we must also accept them as our own. That is not a good trend for anyone.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 29th, 2011
12:27 pm

Dr. Proud Black Man

November 29th, 2011
11:56 am

As usual its just you.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 29th, 2011
12:30 pm

A solution to this issue would be to outlaw Christianity or the State could force, by law, that everyone must, before they are 21, engage in a homosexual relationship therefore obtaining said empathy, understanding etc.

catlady

November 29th, 2011
12:34 pm

I would not think she would be a candidate for any type of counseling degree. What if she held the same idas about other groups? Her program should have moved her out before now. I know we had a strange person in my doctoral program. He had been “shifted” out of psychology to us, and we “moved” him on when his “interests” became known.

Un-american, Un-christian

November 29th, 2011
12:43 pm

So Dr NO, a doctor must have cancer before he can empathize with a patient who has it?

redweather

November 29th, 2011
12:45 pm

I wonder how much support there would be, whether in the courts or the court of public opinion, for a Muslim grad student who felt compelled to tell her female counseling clients that it is morally wrong for them to go out in public without wearing a headscarf or veil? My guess is none, zero, zip.

oneofeach4me

November 29th, 2011
12:51 pm

Lawyers and judges are told to operate by rule of law, not on their own code of ethics. Counselors are held to a similar standard.

In my current studies, I have standards, ethics, and field parameters I had to learn and adhere to if I wanted to continue. That is the point of going to college isn’t it? To learn something new, maybe even contrary to what has been passed down to you. If she isn’t comfortable then she has every right to change her major as she wishes, so long as she can adhere to the given parameters. Heck, she can even transfer should she wish.

As for her profession choice, I agree with Chuck ~ “Judging from all the things I’ve read about Jennifer Keeton so far, I think she is far better suited to starting her own ministry, or perhaps going to work for one of the many “Family Values” lobbies.”

Observer

November 29th, 2011
12:53 pm

@ Dr NO / Mr Sunshine, 12:27 pm, who wrote to Dr. Proud Black Man,11:56 am, “As usual its just you.”

Oh no, it’s not! This woman looks like one of the brainwashed Stepford Wives… a chilling picture. That mouth sealed in a compressed grimace, those staring eyes outlined in “feminine” mascara….

Dr. Proud Black Man

November 29th, 2011
12:56 pm

@ redweather

But this isn’t about Islam now is it? Pfttt!

@Dr. No

zzz

Nicholas

November 29th, 2011
1:03 pm

All this bleating about discrimination is really just a red herring. That Ms. Keeton has a right to hold whatever beliefs she likes about gay people has never been in question, but no counselor has the right to unilaterally redefine the ethics of her profession, no matter what justification she proffers. When one assumes a caring role, it comes with an authority that must be carefully checked by accountability to peers to prevent abuse. Using her role as a counselor to represent her religious views as psychologically authoritative science, when the psychological consensus on this issue is in fact directly opposed to them (as she has explicitly stated is her intention), is a perfect example of the kind of abuse that these ethical standards exist to prevent.

Reality

November 29th, 2011
1:07 pm

Is anyone else tired of people, especially here in Georgia, hiding behind “religon?”

Can I say that I want all blondes to color their hair dark “because of my religon?” I mean, really!

Sure, we can quote such-and-such bible verse to prove almost anything. But if we AMERICANS use religon to justify hate of any type, are we any better than those that caused 9/11???

Americans cannot “use” any religon to justify hate. We don’t “allow” it from people in the Middle East, so why should we allow it here?

Another point….. maybe this young lady is in the wrong major/career. How will she counsel a young gay person? I doubt she has the capacibility to be objective.

Instead of the school “kicking her out”, I say that they should “flunk her out.” Or, in grad school, they can just continue to deny her most anything – but keep taking her money! LOL!

barbie

November 29th, 2011
1:09 pm

She looks like Barbie.

Of course, Barbie has no brains and no heart. Just plastic.

Bill

November 29th, 2011
1:10 pm

If an individual is unwilling to live up to the moral standards of their chosen profession, one must not be allowed to be a part of that profession.

No matter what God tells them.

So sorry, Ms. Keeton. Your morality is inadequate for your chosen profession. If you seek to act out against people immorally, might I suggest you run for Congress instead?

Rockerbabe

November 29th, 2011
1:29 pm

The fact of the matter, is that she is not in the right profession. When one enters into a medical speciality of any kind, one has to be “clinical” in that they have to be objective and deal with the client in a respectful and objective manner with regard to the issue that the client brings to the therapist.

Homosexuality is most likely an inborn characteristic; just like the birds are “hard wired” to fly south in the winter. This is just who they are and how they express their desires. This cannot be changed for most people, no matter how hard they try. She needs to be in another profession that will not expose her or her convictions to those whose lifestyle is dramatically opposite from hers.

It is OK to believe, religiously what you have been taught, but is is grossly unfair and unprofessional to preach that people “ought” be be another way, when most likely, that is an impossibility. Maybe what she really needs, is to growup and get some maturity on her before she enters into any kind of counseling profession.

Jiff363

November 29th, 2011
1:36 pm

Questions for Jennifer Keeton?

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus
35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.
Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
19:27. How should they die?

9… I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.
Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

have nothing further to discuss

Now read the first chapter of Romans and then tell me if it’s ok for a man to lie with a man and a woman with a woman;
http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/gaymarriage/romans1.shtml

written by:

James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia
Posted by: army164 | June 21, 2010 11:25 AM
source:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/06/huckabee-talks-about-gay-marri.html?wprss=44

Jiff363

November 29th, 2011
1:37 pm

My God is Gay.

Teki

November 29th, 2011
1:47 pm

I think some people are not getting the entire picture here. This is not about discrimination against her religious convictions. The article was misleading too and not reporting the whole story.

ASU’s counseling program requires its graduate students to adhere to the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, which prohibits counselors from discriminating based on sexual orientation, among other characteristics, and requires them to avoid imposing their values on their clients. Keeton previously asked a district court to require the university to allow her to participate in the university’s counseling program without agreeing not to tell gay clients that being gay is immoral. The district denied her request.

Un-american, Un-christian

November 29th, 2011
2:05 pm

I am sick of un-Christians using Christianity as a shield from behind which they can fling their small-minded, bigoted viewpoints. Christianity is a big tent, Ms. Keeton, not a bully pulpit.

rajour

November 29th, 2011
2:25 pm

this is crazy! People have the right to believe what they want; This world is going absolutely crazy. Face it, not everyone accepts that lifestyle and by trying to force them to will only distant us more. We can agree to disagree but to tell someone that they have to change their personal views or belief is not acceptable. I am sure every doctor who treats drug addicted people don’t use or agree with drug abuse but still are allowed to do their job. this is about mind control if you lose it then you have nothing not even your identity.

Maureen Downey

November 29th, 2011
2:35 pm

@Jiff. It has been pointed out to me that Dr. Kauffman denies authorship of this letter as these sources note:
http://people.virginia.edu/~jmk9t/
http://drlauraletter.com/
http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/drlaura.asp

Maureen

Un-american, Un-christian

November 29th, 2011
2:36 pm

Exactly the point Rajur. When a gay person unsuspectingly visits Counselor Keeton, he or she is going to get an earful about sexual orientation, sin, and treated for the “condition” of homosexuality, even if the client wanted to be seen for compulsive nail biting. Ms. Keeton cannot properly provide counseling (can’t “do her job”) if she refuses to maintain objectivity about the people she is counseling. She can think whatever she wants, but she cannot abuse the authority and trust of the counselor position to express her beliefs about the client’s lifestyle. That is not what counselors do, unless they are in “reparative therapy”, but in that case gays voluntarily go to the counselor to seek a change in sexual orientation.

Chuck Anziulewicz

November 29th, 2011
2:47 pm

Proselytizing is NOT counseling.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 29th, 2011
3:07 pm

As long as everyone agrees with you/the politically correct jellyfish who stand for nothign, then alls well.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 29th, 2011
3:08 pm

OK…someone has to say it. Homosexuality is wrong. All you pseudo christians consult your Bible…see Leviticus.

Jeremiah

November 29th, 2011
3:15 pm

I applaud this girl to the fullest degree! The trouble with most Christians today is that we are so afraid of offending anyone. To the lost and perishing sinner, the gospel is offensive until their eyes and ears are opened to the truth. The church in America has lost its voice by accepting whatever the liberal government shovels our way. I think that we got so scared when old lady O’hare got prayer out of the schools, that we decided to slink away like we had something to be ashamed of. We need someone at the national level to stand up and say that we will not go quietly into the night, but will stand opposed to anything that threatens what is good, wholesome and right. We have been “Tolerance” and “Diversity” trained into a very dark place. We don’t have to judge, but we can be “fruit inspectors”…you can tell an apple from a peach or an orange pretty easily…without judging.

oneofeach4me

November 29th, 2011
3:17 pm

No matter your beliefs, Dr NO, and no matter the beliefs of Ms. Keeton, her patients would be coming to her as a counselor, not as a spiritual guider. BIG difference.

Jiff363

November 29th, 2011
3:20 pm

@Maureen; OK, but the question still cracks me up. Do really think everything in that old book is relevant today? Do you get to pick and choose what to follow out of the book? I guess that would give u a free mind, and lord knows, we can’t have that!

redweather

November 29th, 2011
3:21 pm

“But this isn’t about Islam now is it? Pfttt!”

That was an analogy. Did you miss that?

Jiff363

November 29th, 2011
3:23 pm

God put his beloved gay people on this earth to out haters that burn in their own hate forever.

redweather

November 29th, 2011
3:25 pm

Teki: You are making way too much sense for many of the posters here who think this woman’s right to practice her religion is being infringed upon. They’ll never get it.

Jiff363

November 29th, 2011
3:29 pm

Lets ask this question then; if a cop dislikes gay people, can he/she just stand idly by as a gay person is being beaten? Someone needs to prescribe this poor woman a brain of her own.

Current1

November 29th, 2011
3:32 pm

@Warrior Woman

Did you not read the judges comments or the article at all? The specific reason is that she demonstrated herself incapable of counseling in an appropriate manner. If she can’t abide by their guidelines and counsel in an ethical manner, that’s her own problem. She should have just taken the remediation program.

Jiff363

November 29th, 2011
3:36 pm

@redweather; thanks, we will never give up because we are fighting for our lives while these other poor fools are fighting to save an old outdated book. If there is one thing history teaches us, its the ones fighting for their live that always win! Love is on our side and in our hearts so God is too. God has no room for these haters and when they get up there he will tell them so. The core of all religions is love, everything else is man’s ego.

  

November 29th, 2011
3:42 pm

God has no room for these haters and when they get up there he will tell them so.

No one said anything about “hate.”

Disagree with something on a moral basis NOT EQUAL TO hate.

Drama, much?

Anon

November 29th, 2011
3:43 pm

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?

A counselor’s job is just that, to counsel. IF she wants to spread her beliefs, become a preacher. Counselors are supposed to be empathetic. Empathy, Noun, the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. Since it is clear she can not empathize with a gay person, she should not be a counselor.
Just like a Jehova’s witness should not be a phlebotomist.

Anon

November 29th, 2011
3:49 pm

American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics is to counselor’s what the Bar association is to lawyers. If a lawyer can’t follow the bar’s code of ethics, then they can not be a lawyer. That is why the court said the college is in the right.
The college is bound by the ACA code of ethics for counselors, hence why the judge ruled “The record suggests, and the testimony at the hearing bolsters, the Plan was imposed because Plaintiff exhibited an inability to counsel in a professionally ethical manner – that is, an inability to resist imposing her moral viewpoint on counselees – in violation of the ACA Code of Ethics.”

The key words there being “because Plaintiff exhibited an inability to counsel in a professionally ethical manner – that is, an inability to resist imposing her moral viewpoint on counselees – in violation of the ACA Code of Ethics.”.
It’s that simple, she can’t act in a professional manner as a counselor, ergo, the college is right to expel her from the program

what's best for kids???

November 29th, 2011
3:53 pm

Reminds me of the South Park episode. The bicurious one where the kid goes to camp to “pray the gay away.” Hilarious episode. Maybe she should transfer to Oral Roberts University.

iRun

November 29th, 2011
3:58 pm

So, it’s all been touched on but let’s sum up:

1. ASU offers a graduate degree in counseling that is accredited by the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics. This means they must teach to the ACA standards to remain accredited.

2. If ASU declines accreditation or loses accreditation then that means their graduates will not be able to get jobs in firms or practices that abide by the ACA standards or is ACA accredited.

3. It’s probably true that a practice that is ACA accredited is eligible for a very specific liability insurance AND/OR is eligible for payment from private and public health insurances.

4. Ms Keeton does not personally subscribe to the ACA standards and has indicated she will not professionally abide by them.

5. Anyone with objections to ACA standards can find a program in another school that fits his/her needs, such as Oral Roberts U or something like that.

6. Ms Keeton will lose this fight because she knew she was enrolling in an ACA accredited program AND she will fail to force the ACA to conform to HER standards because the ACA is not a government or public agency. The ACA is a professional organization where the profession of counseling has agreed to a collective agreement of standards. In other words, it’s a private club and it can, within reason, make it’s own rules.

iRun

November 29th, 2011
4:00 pm

Note the actually accrediting body is not called the ACA but it a partnership between the ACA and another organization, but I’ve just ACA here for consistency.

williebkind

November 29th, 2011
4:37 pm

The constitution should prevail here and does not allow ones religious beliefs denied. Just ask the Boy Scouts! iRun is simply blowing smoke. This is another liberal agenda! If the constitution does not fit their agenda then get a judge to over rule it.

Reality

November 29th, 2011
4:50 pm

@willibkind – What in the WORLD do you mean when you say, “This is another liberal agenda?” Are you insane? Do you think so-called “liberal” people sit around make some list (aka agenda)?

Do you think that so-called conservatives do this?

It seems more likely that you are a Rush ditto-head.

Reality

November 29th, 2011
4:53 pm

@willibkind -

FYI….. Have you ever even looked up the meaning of the word, “liberal?” Do you have a clue as to its meaning at all? I would bet that you THINK that you know the meaning but you would be really really way off!

“Liberal: One who is generous; one who favors greater freedom in political or religious matters; one free from prejudice or narrow thinking. ANT. – stingy, mean, bigoted, or conservative.”