An Augusta State University student who contends the school violated her free-speech rights has been granted more time to answer the college's request that her lawsuit be dismissed.
A motion filed Monday by attorneys representing graduate student Jennifer Keeton said they will not be able to meet the Tuesday deadline to file a response for the defense's motion -- which asks the court to throw out the case or require Keeton to present more specific evidence against the school.
Keeton's attorneys said their lead counsel, Jeffrey Shafer of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance Defense Fund, has had a "number of challenging personal circumstances of late that has kept him out of the office and unable to attend to almost any professional responsibilities."
They cite the extended hospitalization of several of Shafer's family members and the recent birth of a child.
They now have until Nov. 2 to respond.
Keeton filed a lawsuit against ASU on July 21, alleging she was "being forced to change her religious views."
The university said it was only trying to ensure that Keeton doesn't let her beliefs interfere with her ability to counsel clients who don't share her values -- specifically homosexuals.
ASU had required that Keeton complete a remediation plan that included attending counseling workshops, reading counseling journals regarding gays, and increasing her exposure to gay people.
The school's motion to dismiss was filed in September and is based on several arguments, including:
- Keeton has not shown she is entitled to monetary or injunctive relief because the documents she used as evidence did not support her claims.
- The 11th Amendment shields the university from Keeton's claims because state agencies cannot be sued directly, regardless of relief sought.
- The faculty did not violate the U.S. Constitution by asking Keeton to complete the remediation plan.
Also filed Monday was a motion by Keeton's attorney, Joseph J. Martins, to withdraw from the case. In an e-mail filed with the motion and addressed to "Jen," Martins said that because of his "pursuit of other professional opportunities," he is no longer employed by the Alliance Defense Fund.