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Former Augusta State University student's lawsuit alleging rights violation is heard in federal court

Federal judges told Keeton's rights violated

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ATLANTA — An attorney for a graduate school counseling student told federal judges in Atlanta on Tuesday that the student’s First Amendment rights were violated when professors at Augusta State University sought to punish her for her biblical views on gay rights.

Keeton  File/Staff
File/Staff
Keeton

ASU put Jennifer Keeton on academic probation for saying it would be hard for her to work with gay clients, and threatened to expel her unless she attended events such as Augusta’s gay pride parade, Keeton’s attorney Jeff Shafer told the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“She was told, ‘You don’t have to believe it. You just have to say you do,’ ” said Keeton’s attorney, Jeff Shafer.

ASU countered that the counseling program would risk its accreditation if it didn’t hold Keeton to a code of ethics. The school has a duty to require students to counsel all segments of the community, including those who are gay or transgender, it said in court papers.

Keeton told other students that she was interested in practicing conversion therapy – where a therapist tries to “cure” a person from being homosexual – after graduation, said Cristina Correia with the state Attorney General’s office. Correia said Keeton also told her professors she would tell any clients who said they were gay that homosexuality is morally wrong.

University faculty were concerned that Keeton was scheduled to practice counseling in middle and high schools as part of her degree program and could possibly harm young students with her views, Correia said.

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.

She was asked in May 2010 to agree to a remediation plan that would require her to attend sensitivity training, read counseling journals and mix with gays at events like the city’s gay pride parade.

Keeton refused to comply with the plan, which she said in court papers would require her to “tell clients wanting to hear it that homosexual sex is moral.” She filed a federal lawsuit claiming the school wanted to expel her because she “holds Christian ethical convictions” on human sexuality and gender identity. A judge rejected her challenge, leading to Tuesday’s court arguments.

Attorneys for both sides declined comment after the hearing because the case is under a gag order by the court.

The case has drawn national attention from religious groups and gay rights advocates.

Keeton’s lawsuit was brought by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian advocacy group that that presses faith-based cases in court nationwide. It argues that the First Amendment protects Keeton’s rights to share her beliefs about gays with others.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, the national gay rights law firm, took the opposing side. They argued that counselors shouldn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation and should avoid imposing their values on clients.

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wcr250
71
Points
wcr250 11/29/11 - 06:44 am
0
0
What A wonderful world we

What A wonderful world we have here in Augusta,These people would rather please a bun ch of heathens than the Lord jesus Christ

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 11/29/11 - 07:37 am
0
0
I thought they had run this
Unpublished

I thought they had run this hateful woman off. She doesn't have any business counseling anyone with her views.

TheFamousRickyB
0
Points
TheFamousRickyB 11/29/11 - 07:42 am
0
0
Pardon me, but homosexuality

Pardon me, but homosexuality does not equal heathens. You know, that fictional Jesus you keep worrying about loved a prostitute according to your mythology so how about loving your fellow man and obeying that guidebook for how to be a decent human being you love called the Bible and judge not lest ye be judged?

copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 11/29/11 - 07:46 am
0
0
I sure will be glad when the

I sure will be glad when the government declares heterosexuality illegal and everybody is required to be homosexual! This will solve most of the world's problems.

southernguy08
499
Points
southernguy08 11/29/11 - 08:08 am
0
0
THEFAMOUS, you're right, but
Unpublished

THEFAMOUS, you're right, but this is still America, supposedly where opinions are protected. She shouldn't be expelled because of her views on gays, any more than her views on conservatives, liberals, minorities, muslims, etc. If this was a gay student, being advised to take classes on "being straight," liberals would be up in arms and ready to defend that student. Strange new world we're living in, but not a good world.

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 11/29/11 - 08:24 am
0
0
The thing is that this woman

The thing is that this woman is entitled to her opinions and beliefs the same as anyone else. Saying she has to be held to a code of ethics is a bunch of crap, no more than 20 years ago it was ethically wrong to even mention that you were gay, now all of a sudden it is ethically wrong to stand by your religious values. Personally, I am a firm believer of "to each his own" but I don't want anyone pushing their religion views or their gayness on me and I think her rights are being violated.

Austin Rhodes
2862
Points
Austin Rhodes 11/29/11 - 08:33 am
0
0
My neighbor partakes in a

My neighbor partakes in a pagan religion that believes plants are intelligent creatures with souls. So when you visit the salad bar, you are contributing to mass murder. By the way...he got thrown out of cooking school. He hopes to file a lawsuit like Ms. Keaton's.

blues550
376
Points
blues550 11/29/11 - 08:39 am
0
0
Sorry all but like it or not
Unpublished

Sorry all but like it or not conservative thought has no rights in liberal academia.

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 11/29/11 - 08:40 am
0
0
Every time someone comes out

Every time someone comes out with remarks such as the famousRickyB, it absolutely amazes me that they like to throw in 'some Bible' to try and make a point. Does that B stand for blaspheme? Because that's what you have committed--"fictional JESUS, mythology,.....". Be careful calling Mary Magdalena a prostitute. She may have been, but she repented and became a very good woman. And yes, Jesus loved her, and guess what Ricky, HE loves you too............even though right now you speak of HIM in ignorance.

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 11/29/11 - 08:41 am
0
0
Fight on Jennifer, I'll be

Fight on Jennifer, I'll be praying for you!

david jennings
601
Points
david jennings 11/29/11 - 08:51 am
0
0
I thought the issue was Ms.

I thought the issue was Ms. Keeton' inability to seperate her personal views from a professional concerning a certification being sought.

Bruno
780
Points
Bruno 11/29/11 - 08:57 am
0
0
If you condone expelling this

If you condone expelling this girl then to remain intellectually honest you should condone expelling all of the students involved in the OWS at UCDavis. They too violated the universities code of conduct.
Oh and RickyB, Jesus wasn't fictional. There are other historical documents to validate his actual being. You may not believe in his divinity but he was still an actual person.

Bruno
780
Points
Bruno 11/29/11 - 08:58 am
0
0
Oh and by the way. She is

Oh and by the way. She is right. Any behavior is a choice.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 11/29/11 - 09:05 am
0
0
Too bad she's not a muslim;

Too bad she's not a muslim; the --wildly inaccurately named-- Department of Justice would be down here with the Federal Marshals and biblically thick lawsuits, and the --even less accurately named-- Southern POVERTY (really?!) Law Center and All Criminals Love Us would be jammed in the courthouse doors trying to get in first to file on her behalf.

grouse
1635
Points
grouse 11/29/11 - 09:08 am
0
0
Interesting that in any other
Unpublished

Interesting that in any other context, refusing to accept what is taught in a class would unquestionably be grounds for failure, but add religion to the mix....

Little Lamb
46040
Points
Little Lamb 11/29/11 - 09:20 am
0
0
You don't have to accept what

You don't have to accept what is taught in a class to pass the course. You merely have to put what is taught in class on the exams and the essays.

Bruno
780
Points
Bruno 11/29/11 - 09:33 am
0
0
Grouse and Little Lamb, That

Grouse and Little Lamb, That isn't the case in graduate school.

faithson
5158
Points
faithson 11/29/11 - 09:40 am
0
0
Austin makes the most cogent

Austin makes the most cogent argument... If you want a degree, go to an institution that accepts your 'premise', not the other way around.

scoopdedoop64
2366
Points
scoopdedoop64 11/29/11 - 09:51 am
0
0
Austin, what neighborhood do

Austin, what neighborhood do you live in so I can avoid it? Please if you are trying to use some argument against Miss Keaton then find a more realistic one. The real issue is does the standards for ASU's degree require one to have to violate their religious beliefs in order to graduate? If so then it violates Miss Keaton's rights. How much of this "political correctness" are we going to stand for. This is not a frivilous lawsuit without meaning.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 11/29/11 - 10:00 am
0
0
If a young lady who happens

If a young lady who happens to be a devout Muslim is enrolled in a home living (use to be considered Home Economics when I went to school - don't know what it's called now). If she is required to prepare a meal as part of an exam but the menu calls for pork and she refuses because of her religious belief to prepare what is on the menu......would they abide her with another meat substitute or would she be expelled for not preparing what everyone else is required to cook?

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 11/29/11 - 10:00 am
0
0
Who's representing ASU?

Who's representing ASU? Hopefully, David Hudson or someone of his intellectual caliber rather than Porcine Pete.

Oops, excuse me. Forgot that PP doesn't know how to find any courthouses.

noway
201
Points
noway 11/29/11 - 10:04 am
0
0
This article is extremely

This article is extremely biased and doesn't clearly explain the real case at hand. Before making similar biased comments, please review the facts of the case. Keaton doesn't want to follow the ethics guidelines of being a licensed counselor. Anyone who cannot do that would not graduate either.

Little Lamb
46040
Points
Little Lamb 11/29/11 - 10:09 am
0
0
Bruno, I completed a graduate

Bruno, I completed a graduate degree, and during my coursework I had to put on the test the answer the professor expected. Even in my dissertation, I kept in mind what the reader(s) were likely to expect. Graduate school is not much different from first grade.

scott-hudson
10
Points
scott-hudson 11/29/11 - 10:15 am
0
0
In the real world, outside of

In the real world, outside of grad school, a high school one-on-one counselor is a powerful position and one with responsibility. Consider this, a kid comes to Keeton and says he/she is struggling with sexuality. Keeton explains she believes such feelings are an abomination and suggests prayer in order for the kid to save his/her soul...the kid then goes home and commits suicide. Now wouldn't her employer be liable for allowing her to counsel in this manner? And gay teens are the HIGHEST risk group for suicide.

thewaytolite
-1
Points
thewaytolite 11/29/11 - 10:15 am
0
0
The issue is that the

The issue is that the Jennifer Keaton needs to be able to separate her personal religious beliefs from her professional aspirations so that she will have the certification to become a counselor. ASU is holding Ms. Keaton to the same standards as every other school would (That includes religious based institutions). But it does show that she has at no point taken time to think about what a counselors true position is. It is a position where you are trying to help those to come to you regardless of what their sexual preference is. If she is truly trying to be Christ like wouldn't that mean to love all unconditionally casting aside judgement... Maybe I missed the underlying hatred in Jesus' words or maybe I have a better understanding on how God's love was intended to be received. I'm just a flawed human not a catholic priest or bishop at a mega church.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 11/29/11 - 10:16 am
0
0
"during my coursework I had

"during my coursework I had to put on the test the answer the professor expected. Even in my dissertation, I kept in mind what the reader(s) were likely to expect."

So, instead of being honest, you gave your professors and others what you thought they wanted to hear.......sounds like the makings of a good politician to me.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 11/29/11 - 10:29 am
0
0
"Consider this, a kid comes

"Consider this, a kid comes to Keeton and says he/she is struggling with sexuality. Keeton explains she believes such feelings are sinful according to God's Word but there is hope through Jesus Christ. She tells the kid that God loves him/her and can see them through this struggle. She asked if the kid would like for her to pray for him/her and the kid goes home realizing that this isn't a hopeless situation. Whether they change their behavior or not, the kid realizes that there is someone who really cares about them and continues to talk with Ms. Keaton about his/her feelings.

burninater
9599
Points
burninater 11/29/11 - 10:36 am
0
0
Faithson and Austin nail it.

Faithson and Austin nail it. If your faith doesn't let you chop vegetables, you're not going to have much luck at culinary school.

pooks
2
Points
pooks 11/29/11 - 10:30 am
0
0
A therapist is not there to

A therapist is not there to impose his/her ideas on their patients, but to aid their patients in gaining clarity about their problems and how to resolve them. Perhaps this student has chosen the wrong profession.

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 11/29/11 - 10:37 am
0
0
I seriously don't think a

I seriously don't think a Muslim woman would worry about chopping vegetables and who's to say she's not enrolled so she can start her own Islamic restaurant. With the Muslim population increasing, don't you think a restaurant that caters to their cuisine would survive.

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