Judge Rules Against Anti-Gay Augusta State Student

Inside Higher Ed reports, “For the second month in a row, a federal judge has backed the right of a public university to enforce standards of its counseling graduate programs — even when religious students object to standards requiring them to treat gay people on an equal basis.”

In a Georgia case decided Friday, U.S. Circuit Court judge J. Randall Hall refused to grant an injunction stopping Augusta State University from expelling Jennifer Keeton from its graduate counseling program. This action follows her refusal to participate in a remedial program designed to help her counsel gay clients in conformance with the American Counseling Association’s ethics standards, which call for unbiased, positive treatment of all clients.

Ms. Keeton, who wants to become a school counselor, argued that rededication would violate her religious freedom. Concerned that her beliefs would prevent her from properly performing her duties as a counselor, school officials required her to go through a program of rededication that involved learning about and interacting with gays.

Ms. Keeton first agreed to this course of action, then balked. Ms. Keeton advocates “conversion therapy” for gays and lesbians and would also seek to avoid dealing with gays by referring them to other counselors. Therapy to turn gays into heterosexuals is widely considered both ineffective and damaging by counseling professionals.

Hall stressed in his ruling that he was not deciding “a case pitting Christianity against homosexuality.” Instead, he ruled that the plaintiff’s motion for an extraordinary remedy–an injunction against Augusta State–did not meet the high legal standards required in such a case. Hall also stated he did not want to substitute his judgment for that of educators when setting standards for such programs. The Georgia ruling follows closely on the heels of a similar decision in Michigan, setting the stage for trials on the issue.

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Georgia Colleges is published and edited by Jonathan Grant, an Atlanta-based author whose works include the award-winning The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia (University of Georgia Press). He is currently developing a guidebook to Georgia colleges for parents, students, and educators.

Grant graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English. He is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and bureau chief with The Macon Telegraph and served as a Georgia state government spokesman for several years.

He lives in suburban Atlanta with his wife, Judy, and two children–a college freshman and a high school senior. Actively involved in community affairs, he has served as a PTA president, a local school council member, and as a soccer coach for twelve seasons.