Remember Jennifer Keeton, the anti-gay Augusta State University student who sued the school last month claiming that the public institution violated her First Amendment rights by forcing her to accept homosexuality in order to graduate from her counselor education program? ASU wanted to set Keeton up for a remediation program that would "address issues of multicultural competence and develop understanding and empathy." Well a federal court has found that the school's requirement is "academically legitimate" and she could get kicked out of school if she doesn't participate in the program.
The Augusta Chronicle reports on U.S. District Judge Randal Hall's ruling:
Professors asked Keeton to complete the remediation plan after she said she opposed homosexuality and would tell gay clients "their behavior is morally wrong and then help the client change that behavior," according to an affidavit filed in the case. Keeton filed a lawsuit against the school in July, alleging the requirement was viewpoint discrimination and a violation of her First Amendment rights.
Hall ruled that Keeton "failed to clearly establish her high burden of persuasion of a 'substantial likelihood' of success of the merits of her case."
She provided no evidence that ASU faculty imposed the remediation plan because they personally disagreed with her views, Hall said. In an Aug. 11 hearing, ASU professors testified that the plan was not a punishment for voicing her beliefs, but a tool to teach Keeton how to counsel clients while not imposing her views.
"All three professors testified that they never told (Keeton) that she was required to change her religious beliefs in order to stay in the counseling program," Hall wrote.
Hall summed the situation up best in his ruling: "It was not (Keeton's) personal beliefs that were their concern, but rather only her inability to separate her personal beliefs in the judgment-free zone of a professional counseling situation."
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