Intolerant of Christian Morality?

A graduate student has accused Augusta State University in federal court of violating her constitutional rights by demanding that she work to change her views opposing homosexuality. The Chronicle of Higher Education has the story:

‘In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Augusta, Ga., the student, Jennifer Keeton, argues that faculty members and administrators at the university have violated her First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion by threatening her with expulsion if she does not fufill requirements contained in a remediation plan intended to get her to change her beliefs.

‘Ms. Keeton’s lawsuit accuses the university of being “ideologically heavy-handed” in imposing the requirements on her “simply because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she holds to Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and gender identity.” It argues that her views, which hold that homosexual behavior is immoral and that homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle, would not interfere with her ability to provide competent counseling to gay men and lesbians.’

It turns out that the student is a Christian and believes that the Bible forbids homosexuality. She alleges that the faculty is threatening to deny her a degree unless she recants her biblical convictions. Hear the student tell her side of the story in the video below.

12 Responses to Intolerant of Christian Morality?

  1. Seth July 23, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    I read this article along with the many inflammatory comments directed towards Christianity. It seems most who are in disagreement with this young lady do so on the grounds that she is a believer. I wonder if the university in question would force an atheistic student who dismissed the legitimacy of homosexuality to go through added courses?

  2. Christiane July 24, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Sounds like both the University and the young lady are unable to reconcile their concerns.

    Perhaps she should transfer to a college that does not require ‘sensitivity training’ for its counseling students who are going to work with the young who have gender issues.

    I wish she had given specific examples of what she has said to others, so that we might understand better the way in which she has expressed herself.

  3. Charlton Connett July 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    Christiane,

    I agree I would have liked more specific examples in the complaint that Jennifer made. However, there are two points in your post that I think miss the point of this discussion: 1) That the college she goes to requires ‘sensitivity training.’ 2) That transferring to another school would be better for her.

    The problem with these two points is her issue has not been with any “sensitivity training” it has been with the fact that her perception is that the faculty is requiring her to alter her views that her morality applies to everyone. Basically the faculty is requiring that take a stance of moral relativity. The program they have set forth for her to complete was devised with this goal in mind: that she would substantially change her opinions and her position. If there is merit to her claim, and the school is requiring that of her in order for her to receive a degree, then all of us should be appalled. The idea that the only acceptable moral principle for a counselor is relativism is reprehensible, it means that only those individuals with the weakest of moral constructs will ever enter into a profession, and they will only ever be able to encourage people to do what “feels” right, as opposed to ever being able to help anyone determine what really is right.

    As to the second point, she has stated that she considered transferring to another school, but to do so would require her to give up some of the credit she has already attained in her current program, which would require redundant academic work and would delay her plans on entering into the counseling field. While she may ultimately have to do this anyway, depending on the outcome of the case, it should be recognized that for her to transfer would constitute a real harm (at least in terms of financial loss and time loss). Therefore, if she is able to complete the course work as required and demonstrates an ability to counsel others sufficiently to meet the standards of the school (as would be determined from her practicum and intern work) then the school should not concern itself with what others claim she has said (which she has denied) and should permit her to receive her degree as they would any other student.

    All of this assumes that her case has merit and that there is not more going on than we have yet been informed.

  4. El Bryan Libre July 24, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    I didn’t see anything indicating they were wanting her to be a moral relativist.

    On the one hand I feel for her but on the other hand she is in a secular counseling program and her belief that homosexuality is a choice seem like it may come into conflict with secular counseling beliefs/practices.

    I didn’t see the remediation plan as that bad. Only the suggestion that she attend a gay pride parade seemed odd but reading articles and increasing her exposure to gay populations isn’t that big of a deal. Maybe they felt like she lacked an understanding of homosexuality based on things she’s written or said.

    It’s not clear whether the belief they are really taking issue with is that homosexuality is a sin or that it is a choice. If it’s the latter I don’t see how wanting her to change that view is punishing her for being Christian and wanting her to renounce her faith.

    I do wonder what difference it makes in counseling whether you hold those views or not. What kind of counseling is needed for being homosexual or transgendered? If they aren’t trying to change homosexuals then what are they doing?

  5. Charlton Connett July 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Bryan,

    In her complaint she notes that the professors told her that they wanted her to change her view that her moral system was right for everybody. She was told that what they wanted her to do was change to a position that while her moral views may be fine for her, she should not expect others to conform to those views.

    In one sense this could be read as a very non-controversial statement. I would assume all of us want to “tolerate” those who have different moral views (within reason, of course). However, the indication was that they wanted her to actually believe that when counseling, she must affirm the moral decisions of others, even if she personally felt those decisions were wrong. (The example given by one of the Dr.’s was in the case of someone having an abortion. While she may personally feel opposed to abortion she could “affirm” the decision of someone else to have an abortion.) That is moral relativism, regardless of what name they want to call it.

    I read the complaint last night to understand it, so I’m paraphrasing what was written, but you can review the complaint at the site listed if you would like.

  6. El Bryan Libre July 24, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Wow you read that whole complaint? I took a look at it and saw it was 43 pages and I didn’t even bother with it. So I’ll have to take your word for it. What you described does sound a lot like relativism although not full blown moral relativism. I didn’t catch that from the article but so I didn’t see what you were talking about at first. Thanks.

    Based on what you mentioned (affirming moral decisions of others) I wondered if secular counseling does depend on or operate according to a sort of moral relativism. Maybe not full blown moral relativism but in terms of what are commonly accepted moral in a society or at least what’s legal.

  7. Christiane July 25, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    If she is going to be a ‘guidance counselor’ in a high school, or a middle school setting, this controversy would not interfere with her professional performance, very likely.

    If, however, she is going into counseling per se, she may encounter much discomfort working with people who have gender identity issues.
    That is not to say she cannot be a counselor, of course. Almost ALL counselors have some area where they may be uncomfortable, and so they avoid those areas. An example is the area of working with families where there has been incest. Another area that is difficult is working with someone who is drawn to paedophilia.

    No counselor should ever work with a client professionally, where that counselor cannot remain professional.
    We are all human. We all have limits to what we can ‘tolerate’ in others. If this young woman is honest, and she seems to be, she will somehow come to terms with her situation responsibly: both for her own integrity and for the well-being of her future clients.

    I wish her the best.

  8. MRS July 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm #

    If she is going to be a guidance counselor, she will almost asuredly deal with homosexuality in students.

  9. Christiane July 25, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    Not if she works in a Christian setting, that is ‘conservative’.

    Perhaps that is the best kind of setting for her.

    It sounds like she has been something of a pawn in this situation and has been not served well by Christian advisors OR by her university advisors.

    I think she has been placed in the middle of the ‘culture wars’ and that is why I feel sad for her. I’m sure she deserved better treatment from all concerned.

  10. Nathan July 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    If she wants to be a Christian counselor, she should go to a Christian college.

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