Confederate group might join Klan, gays at ASU Keeton protest

Members of a local Sons of Confederate Veterans branch have expressed interest in joining an increasing number of groups that intend to protest Saturday outside the gates of Augusta State University.

The latest organization would join the Ku Klux Klan and a gay rights group that have announced plans to demonstrate over the case of a college grad student who has gone to court to defend her personal beliefs.

Col. Gary Powell, of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, said today he had spoken with a member of the Confederate group who said they planned to attend the rally in full Confederate regalia to protest the Klan, which is protesting in support of ASU graduate student Jennifer Keeton.

Members of a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender group called Proud Ally announced Wednesday that the Klan's presence had prompted them to plan a counter protest Saturday, outside the school's main gates on Walton Way.

For her part, Keeton, 24, has released a statement condemning the KKK's support.

Powell said the latest group has expressed interest in getting a permit to protest but has yet to claim one.

“I told them to come get a permit but I haven’t seen one of them yet,” Powell said.

How many people will show up to the protests is not clear. Authorities said -- out of caution -- they are planning for a large number of people to appear. KKK members have said they expect to have 50 members outside the school.

Keeton, a counseling student, is involved in a lawsuit with the school after faculty members ordered her to undertake a remediation plan that required she expose herself to the homosexual community, which she claims is a violation of her free speech rights. This was after Keeton said she opposed homosexuality and would tell her gay clients "their behavior is morally wrong and then help the client change that behavior," according to an affidavit filed in the case.

School officials say it is not Keeton’s religious beliefs but her unwillingness to work toward being able to counsel homosexuals that prompted the remediation plan. A federal court judge agreed with them in August, allowing the school to expel Keeton from the counseling degree program if she did not finish the plan. Last month, Keeton said she was enrolled at ASU and employed as a counselor intern at Augusta Christian Schools.

The course work she is enrolled in is not the practicum-related class that the district judge -- in denying her attorneys' request for an injunction -- wouldn't make ASU allow her to attend. The internship doesn't qualify as her practicum, Keeton said.

Keeton, now appealing the federal court decision that upheld the remediation plan as constitutional, is enrolled at ASU and employed as a counselor intern at Augusta Christian Schools, she said.

Attorneys for the ASU faculty have filed a motion to dismiss the case and Keeton has until Nov. 2 to reply.

 

-Chronicle reports were used in this article.

 

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

 

 

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