A Georgia college student is at the center of a legal battle over whether her religious
views are compatible with the counseling profession. The Alliance Defense Fund
has filed suit against Augusta State University on behalf of Jennifer Keeton, who
is pursuing a master's degree in counseling at the university.
Keeton is a Christian who holds Biblical views on matters of sexual morality. Keeton
believes that unnatural sexual behavior, including homosexual conduct, is the result
of personal choice, and is not an inbred or involuntary behavioral "orientation."
Officials in the counseling department at Augusta State University have informed
her that she must change her beliefs or face expulsion from the counseling education
University professors contend that Keeton's beliefs prevent her from being a "multiculturally
competent counselor." They have ordered Keeton to participate in a "remediation
That plan requires Keeton to undergo "diversity sensitivity training,"
and to read journals and publications supportive of the "lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender" lifestyle.
Keeton has been instructed to increase her "exposure and interaction with gay populations."
The plan goes so far as to suggest that she attend the "gay pride parade" in Augusta
to obtain such exposure and interaction. She is then required to write monthly
two-page "reflection papers" on how her interactions with the homosexual community
have influenced her beliefs. University officials will then determine, based on
her "reflections," whether she is allowed to continue in the program.
David French, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, says the university
is acting to exclude Christians from the counseling profession.
"A public university
student shouldn't be threatened with expulsion for being a Christian and refusing
to publicly renounce her faith. Abandoning one's own religious beliefs should not
be a precondition at a public university for obtaining a degree. This type of thought
control policy is in place at far too many universities, and it must stop."
French says the university's "remediation plan" is actually a "re-education" program.
"There is no question they are putting her through a thought-reform program. It's
the state trying to invade the human heart and human mind to change her deepest
beliefs. It's unconscionable."
ADF filed suit in U.S. District Court in Georgia arguing that the university's actions
violate Keeton's First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of her
religion. U.S. District Judge Randall Hall has denied an initial motion for a preliminary
injunction against the university, stating the issue is one of "the right of a public
university to enforce reasonable academic standards." ADF is appealing Hall's decision
to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Keeton's case bears considerable resemblance to another recent episode at Eastern
Michigan State University. There, Julea Ward was expelled from the university's
graduate counseling program because she refused to affirm homosexual behavior as
morally acceptable. University faculty also required Ward to undergo a "remediation
program," so that she could "see the error of her ways" and adjust her belief system
about homosexual relationships.
The Alliance Defense Fund also took Ward's case to federal court in Michigan. Judge
George Steeh ruled in favor of the university, deploring the fact that "Ms. Ward
would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients
on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs."
In other words, individuals must violate their conscience if they intend to work
in the counseling profession. ADF is appealing Judge Steeh's ruling as well.
These cases seem like déjà vu for many Missourians following the Emily Brooker episode
at Missouri State University. Brooker was a student in the social work program at
She endured harsh interrogation from a faculty panel when she refused
to write a letter to legislators in support of homosexual adoption rights, and they
threatened to withhold her diploma. ADF represented Brooker and obtained a consent
agreement with the university in which Brooker was vindicated. Missouri State
University commissioned a subsequent independent study of its school of social work.
The final report described a "toxic" atmosphere in which students were bullied and
browbeaten into accepting "certain belief systems."
Please be praying for Jennifer Keeton and Julea Ward and other students who have
the moral courage to stand up to intimidation and affirm their Christian beliefs.
You can hear Jennifer Keeton in her own words at the website of the SpeakUp Movement
at the following link:
SpeakUp Movement is a project of the Alliance Defense Fund. It is dedicated to the
belief that Christians should be able to live their lives free from intimidation,
discrimination, and injustice. The SpeakUp Movement includes a project focused
on protecting and promoting religious rights at our nation's public universities