Christian ASU student threatened with expulsion because of her beliefs on homosexuality
A graduate student of Augusta State University has filed charges against her school because officials threatened to expel her from its counseling program due to her Christian beliefs on homosexuality.
Jennifer Keeton, 24, said in her plea that ASU violated her constitutional rights when they ordered her to attend diversity sensitivity workshops and to join Augusta’s Gay Pride Parade as part of a remediation plan.
The remediation plan also required Keeton to report to the faculty every month so they could decide if the activities affected her conviction. Failure to comply would result in her dismissal, The Augusta Chronicle said.
In a video presented by her lawyers Keeton said, “While I want to stay in the school counseling program, I know that I can’t honestly complete the remediation plan knowing that I would have to alter my beliefs. I’m not willing to, and I know I can’t change my biblical views,” The Augusta Chronicle said.
Keeton also said in her lawsuit that she often expressed her Christian conviction that homosexuality is immoral and a lifestyle choice in and out of class, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.
Keeton said she will pursue her case unless she is allowed to retain her biblical viewpoints and still pursue her studies. In her complaint she mentions ASU President William Bloodworth and professors Paulette Schenck, Mary Jane Anderson-Wiley and Richard Deaner as defendants, The Augusta Chronicle says.
Officials of the university would not comment. However ASU spokeswoman Kathy Schofe said there is no discrimination in the university, and school policies protect students from such, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a group of Christian lawyers, is representing Keeton in her case, which also states that ASU officials violated her First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and free speech, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.
David French, senior counsel said, “Jennifer Keeton has not been accused of mistreating a client. She’s being told, ‘You must change your beliefs or we’ll deny you a degree,’” The Augusta Chronicle said.
French also said, “A public university student shouldn’t be threatened with expulsion for being a Christian and refusing to publicly renounce her faith, but that’s exactly what’s happening here. Abandoning one’s own religious beliefs should not be a precondition at a public university for obtaining a degree,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.
Keeton was told that her beliefs are not consistent with the views that prevail in the counseling profession. However, her lawyers argue that her beliefs will not inhibit her capability to counsel lesbians and gays, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.
French said the ADF has handled many similar cases in recent years. At Eastern Michigan University a counseling student also was threatened with dismissal for her religious views. Also, a Missouri State University student of social work was asked to alter her opinions on same-sex adoption, The Augusta Chronicle said.
French said, “This is an emerging trend in education, social work and counseling. Schools are trying to ensure that their children graduate with a particular world view,” The Augusta Chronicle said.
Keeton is seeking damages, both actual and nominal, as vindication for her “constitutional injuries,” and is also seeking payment of attorney fees. Keeton said, “I really want to serve others. I want to strengthen and prepare young people for the challenges they will face,” The Augusta Chronicle said.