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Topics In the News
Anti-Gay Student Loses Appeal
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/20/11
Last updated on: 12/20/11
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A three judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the claim of Jennifer Keeton that her First Amendment rights were violated when Augusta State University required her to treat glbtq people in a respectful and nondiscriminatory way.

Keeton was expelled from a counseling education program at Augusta State University when she refused to abide by requirements that all clients, including gay people, be treated in supportive, nonjudgmental ways. She insisted that her religious beliefs would be violated were she to adhere to the counseling program's policy against recommending "reparative therapy" to gay and lesbian clients.

The three-judge panel of one of the country's most conservative appeals court ruled that the university had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons to enforce its rules. The counseling program's accreditation depended in part on adhering to a code of conduct that prohibits discrimination, and faculty members believed it was their responsibility to train students to work with a wide range of clients.

"Just as a medical school would be permitted to bar a student who refused to administer blood transfusions for religious reasons from participating in clinical rotations, so ASU may prohibit Keeton from participating in its clinical practicum if she refuses to administer the treatment it has deemed appropriate," the court ruled.

"Every profession has its own ethical codes and dictates. When someone voluntarily chooses to enter a profession, he or she must comply with its rules and ethical requirements. Lawyers must present legal arguments on behalf of their clients, notwithstanding their personal views. . . . So too, counselors must refrain from imposing their moral and religious views on their clients."

The panel rejected the allegation that the university was intent on altering Keeton's personal religious beliefs. Indeed, the appeals court ruled that it is Keeton who wants to impose her religious beliefs on others. And in seeking permission to do so, "Keeton is looking for preferential, not equal, treatment."

Read more about the case in Scott Jaschik's article at Inside Higher Education: Anti-Gay Student's Suit Rejected.

The decision itself may be found here: 201013925.pdf.

A similar suit, this one against Eastern Michigan University, is on appeal in the sixth circuit.

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