Augusta State University counseling student Jennifer Keeton was told that her Christian beliefs were unethical and incompatible with the prevailing views in her college counseling program. You see, Jen didn’t hide who she was while in class. Once her professors learned of her biblical beliefs, specifically her views on homosexual conduct, from both classroom discussions and private conversations with other students, school officials stepped in. The University told her to stop sharing her beliefs with others and then even went so far as to say that if she didn’t change her beliefs, she wouldn’t graduate from the counseling program.
The university ordered Jennifer to undergo a re-education program, where she would attend diversity and sensitivity training, do additional remedial reading and write additional papers to describe the impact of the assignments on her thinking. The plan also ordered her to “work to increase exposure and interactions with gay populations. One such activity could be attending the Gay Pride Parade in Augusta.” The university expressed suspicion over “Jen’s ability to be a multiculturally competent counselor, particularly with regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (GLBTQ) populations” because of her Christian beliefs. It was clear that if she did not change her beliefs, or if she did not agree to the re-education program, she would be expelled. Simply put, the university was imposing thought reform.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit to protect Jennifer Keeton’s free speech, religious freedom, and rights of conscience. No public university should require students to abandon their most basic beliefs. Unfortunately, the court did not see it the same way. Ultimately Jennifer lost her legal battle and was kicked out of the Augusta State Counseling program for her religious convictions.
To make sure future students don’t find themselves facing this same fate, Alliance Defending Freedom is working closely with several state Family Policy Councils to get legislation passed specifically prohibiting this type of blatant discrimination.