A student who is suing Augusta State University says she considers gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lifestyles as "identity confusion," and shared those views in class discussions and written assignments.
Jennifer Keeton, a 24-year-old graduate student, said in an e-mail Friday that she had told Paulette Schenck, an ASU assistant professor named as a defendant in the suit, that homosexuality is a behavioral choice. However, Keeton said allegations by college officials that she would encourage conversion therapy on students or her clients is false.
ASU and state Board of Regents officials said Friday they couldn't talk about the lawsuit, which claims ASU professors demanded Keeton suppress her views on homosexuals to remain in a counseling program.
School spokeswoman Kathy Schofe said the university has not been served with the legal paperwork but officials are aware that Keeton is suing the university.
John Millsaps, a Regents spokesman, said the lawsuit has muzzled both the university and state officials.
Schofe said much the same, but added: "Hopefully, I'll be able to comment soon, because we're being slammed."
She said commenting on Keeton's academic standing would violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. She also said university faculty do not discriminate in regards to religious or moral beliefs.
The counselor education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs, and more than 250 students have graduated from the program, Schofe said.
The counseling program follows the American School Counselor Association's ethical standards, which specify that counselors in training must "recognize and accept" individual differences, cultural diversity and alternative points of view.
In her suit, Keeton, who wants to become a school counselor, claims Mary Jane Anderson-Wiley, an ASU associate professor, requested that Keeton take part in a remediation plan because of her beliefs about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.
Keeton was ordered to take part in diversity training and write two-page reflection papers monthly on how "her study has influenced her beliefs," according to court documents. The lawsuit claims that Keeton will be removed from the ASU counseling program if she does not comply with the plan.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance that supports religious freedom, filed the suit for Keeton in U.S. District Court in Augusta on Wednesday. The agency has declined to allow Keeton to be interviewed, but she has responded to submitted e-mail questions.
Elizabeth Evans, of Louisville, said she had a similar experience when she began the counselor education program at ASU in 1995. After taking three courses, Evans said she was interviewed by a panel of professors who questioned her religious beliefs.
"I told them I think homosexuality is wrong. The Bible speaks against it," she said. "I was not admitted to the program, because of my beliefs. When I read the article, my heart hurt for Jennifer."
Evans said she decided to pursue a master's degree in early childhood education at the university. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree.
Though she found her calling, she said Christian students at the university should not be treated as Keeton has.
"I can't believe they suggested that she go to the gay pride parade," Evans said. "I hope she sues the pants off of them."