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|Lambda Legal: Augusta counseling student could hurt LGBT youth|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|December 10, 2010 00:00|
Lambda Legal has filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing an Augusta State University graduate student’s claim that her constitutional rights were violated when the school threatened to expel her because of her Christian belief that being gay or transgender is immoral.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court Southern Division in Augusta, argues counseling graduate student Jennifer Keeton’s First Amendment rights were violated by the university because it stated her biblical opposition to homosexuality — that she would state in class and to other students — went against the professional code for being an ethical counselor.
Keeton, who wants to be a secondary school counselor, is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian organization dedicated to defending “traditional family values.”
On Nov. 29, Lambda Legal filed court documents on behalf of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) and the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition.
“It is unethical and dangerous for a counselor to not respect the dignity and promote the welfare of her LGBTQ clients,” said Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, in a statement.
“When Georgia’s LGBTQ youth are being bullied or thinking about committing suicide, we want them to be speaking with trained counselors who will help not harm them,” Nevins added.
Keeton filed her lawsuit against the university in July. In August, U.S. District Judge Randall Hall ruled against her, stating that the case should not be viewed as “pitting Christianity against homosexuality.”
“This case is not about the propriety of Plaintiff’s views or beliefs, or any of the Augusta State University counseling faculty’s views or beliefs, regarding the topics implicated in this case,” Hall wrote.
Keeton said her professors ordered her to go through a remediation plan, including attending a Gay Pride event in Augusta, to better understand the LGBT community. Keeton refused to participate in the remediation plan.
The university also states that to be a professional counselor, it is unethical to have bias against a group of people.
PFLAG works with LGBT students as does GSSC, an organization of Georgia educators and activists dedicated to ensuring that schools are safe for LGBT students.
In a press release from Lambda Legal about its friend-of-the-court brief, PFLAG and GSSC want to ensure that all schools are safe for LGBT students to learn and thrive.
“Lambda Legal emphasized the important role of counselors in preventing harm to LGTBQ youth. As part of their missions to help LGBTQ youth feel safe in schools, PFLAG and GSSC explained to the court how essential it is that school counselors honor their professional duty to promote the well-being of all students, especially those youth who are being bullied,” the release stated. “LGBT students, compared to any other minority group, are more likely to feel unsafe in school and school counselors can profoundly affect an LGTBTQ youth’s mental health.”
The case is Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley.
Top photo: Jennifer Keeton, a counseling graduate student at Augusta State University, is suing the university after she claims her professors violated her constitutional rights by saying her anti-gay views violated ethical counseling conduct. (via Alliance Defense Fund)
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