A recent case involving the dismissal of a graduate student studying counseling at the Augusta State University in Georgia has Religious Right media outlets in a spin. The student is Jennifer Keeton, who was enrolled in the Counselor Education Program at the school. She identifies as a Christian and believes that homosexuality is a choice. Since every major medical and educational organization in the United States declares otherwise, this put her at odds with the University curriculum. She was offered a remediation plan to increase her “ability to be a multiculturally competent counselor, particularly with regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (GLBTQ) populations.” The plan noted the following:
Jen has voiced disagreement in several class discussions and in written assignments with the gay and lesbian ‘lifestyle.’ She stated in one paper that she believes GLBTQ ‘lifestyles’ to be identity confusion. This was during her enrollment in the Diversity Sensitivity course and after the presentation on GLBTQ populations.
Faculty have also received unsolicited reports from another student that [Keeton] has relayed her interest in conversion therapy for GLBTQ populations and she has tried to convince other students to support and believe her views.
She was instructed to attend at least three diversity workshops centered on the LGBTQ community and increase her exposure and interaction with gay populations. Failure to complete the plan would result in dismissal from the program. This prompted her lawsuit against the school.
In an Exodus blog post, Randy Thomas warns,
Professional organizations are finding that activist driven agendas cannot be proved as beneficial to all who struggle with same sex attraction. They are finding that a client’s right to self-determination cannot be trumped by gay activist ideology and morality. It should be obvious that further study on those of us who have benefitted from this type of counseling is needed, not disenfranchisement of conservative/Christian counselors.
Some gay affirming counselors and professors are finding it next to impossible to remove what is already in place. Now it would appear they wish to attack future potential counselors who don’t adhere to a liberal gay ideology before they ever get into practice.
This woman’s religious freedom isn’t at all being squelched. She has every right to study reparative therapy techniques from socially conservative point of view at the conservative Christian college of her choice. This is America. But she does not have the right to alter the curricula of academic institutions she attends just because they might not share her specific personal beliefs, especially if those beliefs directly oppose the foundation of her chosen degree, which was laid by professional medical organizations.
Rather than acknowledge this, Randy instead politicizes sexuality and blames the school’s counseling program for espousing “a liberal gay ideology.” Apparently recognizing the existence of gay people without placing moral baggage upon them is the same as espousing an “ideology.” The university is doing no such thing. They are concurring with medical science and the professional organizations based upon it.
In an excellent comment posted by “Tommy T.“, a valid question is posed:
Let’s reverse this: let’s say an Atheist intentionally attends a Christian university, and insists on replacing the approved course material with opposing secular-based sources. Would any of us support him/her suing the school for standing by its right to adhere to the pre-approved lesson plan? I doubt it.
Edited 8/9/2010 to correct school name.