December 3, 2010
By KC Johnson
Hard cases make bad law. Nowhere is that legal maxim clearer than the case of former Augusta State counseling student Jennifer Keeton, who was removed from the counseling program because of her rather extreme anti-gay views. A lower-court judge upheld the university's actions.FIRE and NAS have filed a powerful amicus brief, penned by Eugene Volokh, spelling out the potentially damaging---extremely damaging---effects if this decision is upheld. At the same time, however, the evidence presented in the case strongly suggests that Keeton doesn't belong as a counselor.
This article comes from Minding the Campus. I highly recommend this group for those who want to keep up with the campus climate around our country. FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) is a group that is often desperately needed on campuses around the country. So much for introductions.
If you continue reading the article (well worth your time) you will see that KC Johnson generally supports what FIRE is doing in this case, but hopes that the student in question, Jennifer Keeton, never becomes a counselor. The heart of why Johnson thinks Keeton should never be a counselor is this:
Keeton . . . stated that she would put her religious beliefs ahead of her clients' well-being. She told one student that in any counseling session with a gay or lesbian client, she would tell her client that "their behavior is morally wrong, and then help the client 'change' that behavior." If the prospective client didn't go along, Keeton said she would recommend "conversion" therapy.
I fail to see why this should be considered a banishable offense, assuming ‘conversion therapy’ does not involve electric shock or its equivalent. Just why is it that a homosexual client should be shielded from the very relevant moral information that homosexual behavior is wrong? My best guess is that this is because so many people are now unwilling to admit that it is wrong. But it is wrong, and it is not unreasonable to think that anyone who makes a habit of practicing a serious moral evil might not suffer from that practice. And it is not unreasonable even to expect a good counselor to point that out somewhere along the way.
Jennifer Keeton’s religious beliefs are in fact not something that could be ‘put ahead’ of the well-being of her homosexual clients. Her religious beliefs, when applied to her clients, would be in the best interests of her clients!
I an thankful that people like Jennifer Keeton are willing to become counselors. I am thankful that groups like FIRE are around to help people like Jennifer. But knowing what I do about universities, I am not surprised that Jennifer is being, in essence, persecuted by a university. It just what they now, regretfully, do. (Read more about Keeton’s case here.)