by Ben Johnson
WASHINGTON, December 1, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – After losing at a lower court, a counseling student at a public university in Georgia who was threatened with expulsion because she express discomfort with counseling homosexuals, is pleading her case before an Appeals Court this week.
A legal complaint filed on behalf of Jennifer Keeton accuses Augusta State University of placing Keeton on academic probation after she refused to comply with faculty instructions that she must, in their words, “alter her beliefs” on homosexuality and “gender identity.”
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is representing her. The ADF’s media office told LifeSiteNews.com the court had placed a gag order on the case, forbidding either side to discuss the proceedings.
However, many of the case’s details are known from the original lawsuit.
Keeton was pursuing a master’s degree in hopes of becoming a school counselor when she told faculty and students she would have a difficult time counseling a homosexual, because of her deeply held religious beliefs. According to affidavits produced by the university, Keeton had told other students “she would refer gay people to other counselors,” reported Inside Higher Ed.
However, ASU officials said Keeton’s beliefs violate the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, which states counselors must “avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals.” It adds, “Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination” based on a variety of criteria, including “gender identity” and “sexual orientation…in a manner that has a negative impact on these persons.”
The school drew up a re-education plan that forced Keeton to attend “diversity sensitivity training,” go to homosexual celebrations such as the Augusta Gay Pride Parade, and complete essays discussing how remedial reading assignments about counseling homosexuals have impacted her beliefs.
When she refused to comply on religious grounds, she was suspended from ASU’s Counselor Education Program. She then sued the state university for religious discrimination. Last August, federal judge James Randal Hall denied her case.
Keeton is not the only Christian to face disciplinary action for refusing to recant her strong Biblical beliefs. Julea Ward was kicked out of Eastern Michigan University’s graduate counseling program in March 2009 after she referred a homosexual client to another counselor.
The Michigan state legislature is currently considering the Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act, which establishes that colleges and universities in that state “shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.”