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Anti-gay student loses legal appeal

Christopher Brocklebank August 23, 2010
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A federal judge has upheld the right of a university to enforce standards in its counselling graduate programmes after an anti-gay student sued the institution for insisting she comply with the rule that gay people be treated equally.

Judge J. Randal Hall said he would not grant an injunction to block Augusta State University, located in the US state of Georgia, from expelling Jennifer Keeton.

Ms Keeton had refused to comply with a remedial module designed to deal with concerns faculty members and fellow students had about the way she would counsel gay people.

She stated that being asked to comply with the remedial program would go against her Christian beliefs. Her legal representatives maintain a public university has no right to request this of a student.

Ms Keeton enrolled on the counselling MA last year with the aim of becoming a school counsellor. The curriculum of the course is partly based on teaching and adhering to the ethics code of the American Counselling Association, which requires that counsellors steer clear of bias on various grounds, including sexual orientation, and work with individuals in a manner respectful of their lives and beliefs.

According to the judge’s ruling, Ms Keeton stated in both class discussions and her papers that she condemned homosexuality, that sexual orientation was a matter of choice, and that, given the opportunity to counsel gay people, she would recommend “conversion therapy”.

Ms Keeton claimed she tried to comply with the rules originally, but finding that she could not, she decided to sue, alleging “viewpoint discrimination”.

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, Judge Hall ruled against Ms Keeton’s claim, writing: “This is not a case pitting Christianity against homosexuality . . . [but] the right of a public university to enforce reasonable academic standards”.

More: Americas, Religion, religious homophobia

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