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Christian student sues ASU

School says master's candidate must change beliefs, suit states

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An Augusta State University graduate student is facing dismissal from the university's counseling program unless she silences her convictions on homosexuality and gender identity, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Jennifer Keeton is suing ASU for trying to silence her religious views.   Special
Special
Jennifer Keeton is suing ASU for trying to silence her religious views.

Jennifer Keeton, 24, plans to press forward with her lawsuit against the university if she is not allowed to retain her biblical viewpoints and remain a graduate student at ASU, according to the complaint filed by the Alliance Defense Fund. The complaint names ASU President William Bloodworth and professors Mary Jane Anderson-Wiley, Paulette Schenck and Richard Deaner as defendants, according to the documents filed in United States District Court in Augusta.

"Jennifer Keeton has not been accused of mistreating a client," said David French, senior counsel for ADF, a legal alliance that supports religious freedom. "She's being told, 'You must change your beliefs or we'll deny you a degree.' "

Keeton claims that she has voiced her Christian beliefs inside and outside the classroom on homosexuality and other biblical teachings. ASU faculty has ordered her to undergo a remediation plan, which would include diversity sensitivity workshops, she says.

Professors also suggested that she attend Augusta's Gay Pride Parade last month, Keeton told her attorneys. As a part of the plan, she would report back once a month to faculty to determine whether the activities have an impact on her convictions.

Keeton, who is from the Atlanta area, plans to become a school counselor, and says she refuses to change her religious beliefs. She enrolled in the program last fall, but was not asked to begin the remediation plan until this summer.

"While I want to stay in the school counseling program, I know that I can't honestly complete the remediation plan knowing that I would have to alter my beliefs," Keeton said in a video produced by the defense fund. "I'm not willing to, and I know I can't change my biblical views."

Her lawyers declined a request for an interview with Keeton.

The defense fund has handled similar cases the past few years. A Missouri State University social work student filed suit against the university when she was asked to change her views on same-sex adoption, French said. The university later settled. An Eastern Michigan University counseling student filed suit when the university threatened to dismiss her for her religious views. The case is still pending.

"This is an emerging trend in education, social work and counseling," French said. "Schools are trying to ensure that their children graduate with a particular world view."

Edward Delgado-Romero, a University of Georgia associate professor of counseling psychology, said he is not familiar with the case, but is aware that every university counseling program has national guidelines on training and practice. Every student entering the counseling field should be aware of what is considered acceptable, he said.

"All programs that are training professional counselors have guidelines, not in terms of belief but in terms of behavior during training and treatment," Delgado-Romero said. "A student saying 'I personally have religious beliefs against this group, and I will convince my clients to believe this' would be a conflict."

Delgado-Romero said that UGA's faculty would not force a student to change their beliefs, but there would be discussions on how personal beliefs should not affect treatment of clients.

Messages left for an Augusta State University spokeswoman were not returned Thursday evening.

Though Keeton has refused the remediation plan, the university has not taken steps to dismiss her, French said.

Keeton is suing the university for actual and nominal damages to vindicate her "constitutional injuries," according to court documents. She is also requesting that the university pay for her attorney fees.

"I really want to serve others," Keeton said. "I want to strengthen and prepare young people for the challenges they will face."


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kennycanary
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kennycanary 07/25/10 - 06:00 pm
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So, what other people do in

So, what other people do in the privacy of their bedroom is her business, but what she does is not our business? Why the double standard?

ReasonableThinker
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ReasonableThinker 07/26/10 - 05:13 pm
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That's the problem

That's the problem kennycanary... according to her complaint, she didn't "do" anything; she merely said honestly what she personally believes about the issue of homosexuality. Furthermore, she expressed no desire to "do" anything to homosexuals in the future except refer them to another qualified counselor. If she's telling the truth, she was threatened with expulsion merely for being honest about her personal beliefs.

There is nothing coercive, oppressive, illegal, or unethical about holding a strong personal opinion about something (even a view that chafes others deeply), and Keeton has a legally protected right to express her views honestly in a classroom setting as long as those views do not constitute a direct incitement to violence or a blatant interruption to the topic at hand (neither of which applies to the things she claims to have said).

So it begs the question: If she is not yet a practicing counselor, and she made no disrespectful outburst or overt harrassment of others in class, and she earned an A in ASU's own diversity-sensitivity class, what were the grounds for assigning her (exclusively) to an ideology-specific remediation plan at the peril of expulsion?

Allegedly, Keeton never "did" anything except honestly admit what she believes her religion tells her about homosexuals. If true, she has a very strong case, but we must wait to hear ASU's response to know anything for certain.

By the way, that response may come very late or never since there are strict privacy laws restricting what universities can reveal about a student's academic performance and other issues. It may be that ASU would like to respond but cannot without violating those privacy laws. We'll see...

ladydraft
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ladydraft 07/26/10 - 08:26 pm
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In my humble opinion, anyone

In my humble opinion, anyone with such outspoken personal opinions and bias is absolutely NOT suitable to function as a counselor....unless she is working for a religious organization that promotes her beliefs. Someone coming to a counselor for assistance in the latter environment could reasonably expect her to promote her "religious" beliefs. She is certainly NOT a person that should be working with the general public...least of all with children. Imagine a child in need who is struggling with their sexuality and leaving a session with this woman emotionally scarred by her "opinions". Being young is tough enough these days...kids don't need a judgmental and biased counselor. Personally, I wish the media would stop giving her so much press.

lois_layne
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lois_layne 07/27/10 - 11:35 am
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Hurray, ASU! I grew up nearby

Hurray, ASU! I grew up nearby and played on that campus as a little girl, and later received two degrees from that school. Although I was an excellent student in Augusta schools, I didn't really learn about the rest of the world until I went to my beloved AC.

Now I wonder, if I were a vegetarian, would I be allowed to peddle my beliefs to my counseling clients? Were I an Atheist, would I be respected for speaking out that these are my proud beliefs and I should be allowed to counsel your children? Were I lesbian or bisexual .... on and on. Beliefs don't belong in a sensitive area such as children's minds. This woman knows the difference between beliefs and education, and she is taking advantage of a chance to "witness" her beliefs to the world.

Freedom of speech is wonderful and she should be applauded for exercising hers. But freedom isn't free. She is paying a price. She made this choice. She can't have it both ways.

Keets
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Keets 07/27/10 - 12:31 pm
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While I may not agree with

While I may not agree with her beliefs, I have to side with her. Its one thing for the school to make sure that she understand that her opinions are her own and that while counseling it's important to keep those opinions to herself. However, ASU has clearly crossed the line when the faculty made it mandatory that she change her beliefs to continue in the program. I could only imagine if the story were reversed.

Retard
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Retard 07/27/10 - 05:25 pm
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If she is being honest and

If she is being honest and ASU is indeed trying to alter her beliefs or single her out because of them then they deserve the lawsuit and much worse. The faculty should personally be punished. Freedom of speech and religion people.

Savagery
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Savagery 07/27/10 - 07:19 pm
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Greetings from the least

Greetings from the least church-going state in the union- Oregon. (don't call me a yankee- the Mariners are my team)

Basically, she's claiming that the school is discriminating against her for wanting to discriminate against other people. FAIL

How is it that you people in the South have the coolest accents, the best food, are generous and down to earth in some respects but TOTALLY and COMPLETELY retarded in all others? Those of you that have half a brain move out while you can. You'll find other refugees here and other cool places like New York, Chicago, et cet. Believe me, I've met them.

In the meantime, I shall leave with this quote from Jesus about homosexuals:"................................................"

momster59
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momster59 07/27/10 - 07:26 pm
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Savagery The supporters

Savagery The supporters have been informed that Jesus said " " about homosexuality, but they keep insisting that Moses and Paul are really Jesus.
Why did I stay here? My neighbors are real nice, when it's not 100 out we have great weather, I'm vegetarian and can get fresh local veggies year round, and .......if all the open minded people leave, then who will provoke thought? Did I mention my neighbors are real nice?

Retard
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Retard 07/27/10 - 08:00 pm
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Greetings savagery, how is it

Greetings savagery, how is it exactly that you know more about the case than the locals here? Last time I checked she has a right to voice her beliefs in and out of class. If the constitution was amended to say otherwise, do let me know.

Savagery
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Savagery 07/27/10 - 08:59 pm
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"she has a right to voice her

"she has a right to voice her beliefs in and out of class"

She also has the right not to become a counselor.

momster59
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momster59 07/27/10 - 09:01 pm
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OK Savagery, maybe I can move

OK Savagery, maybe I can move to OR in a few years when I retire.

Sargebaby
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Sargebaby 07/27/10 - 09:08 pm
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Savagery says; "She also has

Savagery says; "She also has the right not to become a counselor."
______________________

Sarge says; But Savagery, she also has a RIGHT TO BECOME A COUNSELOR! Which is more important? Her rights, or the rights of those trying to force her to make a change, that by law, she doesn't have to accept?

Savagery
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Savagery 07/27/10 - 10:08 pm
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I found this quote on another

I found this quote on another website:

‎"Obviously one requirement of being a legitimate counselor is setting biases aside to help an individual in need. Is Keeton capable of that?"

I say, no.

Retard
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Retard 07/27/10 - 11:47 pm
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Savagery: it's not up to you

Savagery: it's not up to you to decide whether she can separate her beliefs from her profession. She made the claim that she can do so, just like every other counselor. Therefore she should be allowed to continue her studies like the many counselors before her.

Savagery
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Savagery 07/28/10 - 01:26 am
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And therefore she should be

And therefore she should be able to take the course.

Retard
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Retard 07/28/10 - 07:37 am
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NOT if the "remediation" plan

NOT if the "remediation" plan discriminates and violates her rights. If you are against freedom of religion, just admit it so we can move on.

Marlene
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Marlene 07/29/10 - 06:36 am
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We're not against her

We're not against her religious beliefs, Retard. We're against her having the *hint* of a chance of her imposing her religious beliefs in a clinical setting, *especially* if she's in a public school or state-funded clinic.

Furthermore, *every* legitimate association affiliated with the psychological professional community has clearly proven that one's sexual orientation and gender identity is as natural to them as their hair and eye color, and is unethical to even *suggest* it can be changed!

Ms. Keeton is denying the facts the APA and the ACA have as part of their requirements for certification, and if she doesn't like them, then she should attend a religious-affiliated school and set up practice as a *Christian* counselor!

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 08/01/10 - 08:35 am
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Because not everyone who

Because not everyone who visits Babylon wants to become a Babylonian.

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