It was only a week ago when the Michigan House of Representatives passed the “Julea Ward freedom of conscience act,” an act that would ban schools from punishing, say, Christian counseling students who don’t want to help gay clients.
Ward wasn’t the only Christian who refused to help people because of their sexual orientation.
Jennifer Keeton was in the same boat at Augusta State University in Georgia. She took things one step further. She made it clear that if any client ever tells her he’s gay, she’s going to respond by telling him he needs to be “cured.” She supported “conversion therapy,” something that doesn’t work and harms the patients.
In response, her school made her take diversity sensitivity workshops as part of a remediation plan. Keeton refused to participate. The school kicked her out of the program. Keeton sued. She said the school discriminated against her because of her faith. They didn’t, of course, because they weren’t asking her to alter her religious beliefs — she just had to keep them to herself and do her damn job.
Now, a Georgia federal district court has sided with the school (PDF). Yay!
Keeton’s conflation of personal and professional values, or at least her difficulty in discerning the difference, appears to have been rooted in her opinion that the immorality of homosexual relations is a matter of objective and absolute moral truth. The policies which govern the ethical conduct of counselors, however, with their focus on client welfare and self-determination, make clear that the counselor’s professional environs are not intended to be a crucible for counselors to test metaphysical or moral propositions. Plato’s Academy or a seminary the Counselor Program is not; that Keeton’s opinions were couched in absolute or ontological terms does not give her constitutional license to make it otherwise.
Keeton’s allegations do not show that imposition of the remediation plan was substantially motivated by her personal religious views. The plan was instead imposed “because she was unwilling to comply with the ACA Code of Ethics.”
The Judge, James Randal Hall, issued one hell of a ruling, dismissing all of her claims. Most importantly, the judge reiterated the fact that “when someone voluntarily chooses to enter a profession, he or she must comply with its rules and ethical requirements.”
Hear that, Christian pharmacists?
It’s the right call. No school has a right to tell you what you have to believe religion-wise, but they have every right to make sure counselors do what’s best for their patients. Keeton was using her faith to harm certain ones and the school had every right to kick her out of their program because of it.
(via Religion Clause)