“I’m not dead yet! (And neither are you!)”

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Of counseling and the Klan

Jennifer Keeton was an MA student in Augusta State University’s counselor-training program, until she refused to administer conventional, affirming treatments to LGBT students because she believed homosexuality was “immoral and changeable” according to her biblical worldview. Claiming infringement of free exercise of religion, Keenan sued Augusta:

A graduate student is suing a Georgia university, alleging that professors are requiring her to change her “biblical views” on homosexuality or be expelled from the counseling program there.

Jennifer Keeton filed a civil rights action in U.S. District Court on July 21 saying Augusta State University violated her “constitutional rights of speech, belief and religious exercise.”

The action says university faculty have “promised to expel” Keeton “because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she holds to Christian ethical conviction on matters of human sexuality and gender identity.”

After Keeton expressed her views verbally and in written assignments, faculty mandated Keeton complete a “remediation plan.”

CNN obtained a copy of the remediation plan from the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents Keeton in the action. The plan addresses issues such as writing ability and organizational skills, as well as Keeton’s ability to be a “multiculturally competent counselor, particularly in regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning populations.”

Among the plan’s requirements, Keeton was to attend at least three diversity workshops, get more exposure to gay populations (one suggestion was to attend a gay pride parade in Augusta, where the university is located), do outside reading about gays and write reflections on these experiences and how they might benefit future clients.

At first, Keeton agreed to the remediation plan, according to the suit. Then, she had second thoughts.

In video provided by the Alliance Defense Fund, Keeton says, “I want to stay in the school counseling program, [but] I can’t honestly complete the remediation program knowing I would have to alter by beliefs. I’m not willing to — and I know I can’t — change my biblical views.”

[via CNN]

That story is from June. In the meantime, there have been some developments in the case. A federal judge ruled against Keeton, but her case remains a rallying point for traditionalist organizations like Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. Now, she’s recieved another endorsement:

The Ku Klux Klan will hold a rally in support of an Augusta State University counseling student who claims her First Amendment rights were violated when the school ordered her to learn more about the homosexual community.

Bobby Spurlock, the imperial wizard knighthawk and grand dragon of South Carolina and North Carolina, said today the group has met with school officials and plans to protest the school’s treatment of 24-year-old Jennifer Keeton. The protest will be Oct. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. They will be in full dress and located across from the school’s main Walton Way entrance in the median at Fleming Avenue.

Spurlock said they believe Keeton’s First Amendment rights were violated when the school required her to participate in a remediation program after she objected to counseling homosexuals.

“It’s your constitutional right so how could you tell someone you have to do something completely different?” Spurlock said.

Keeton sued the university in July because she felt she was not allowed to retain her biblical viewpoints and remain a graduate student.

The remediation plan required that Keeton attend counseling workshops, read counseling journals regarding gays and to increase her exposure to the gay community.

Spurlock said the KKK has not been in contact with Keeton herself.

“She is no way whatsoever affiliated with us,” he said. “She has not contacted us but we were contacted by someone that is aware of her.”

Even if she’s not affiliated…I imagine it’s still quite embarassing, to understate. I would hope anyone who finds the Klan rallying to their cause would take stock of their values and priorities.

But in any case, the endorsement will distort the conversation of the whole affair. LGBT and Allied bloggers with less imagination or impulse control will make unfair equivalencies between the average anti-gay marriage voter and the KKK, traditionalists will claim encroachment of secular elites, and no one will profit.  Though I come down on the side of the judge who ruled against Keeton, the case raises difficult questions about plurality of conscience in a free society. In brief, I think anti-Keetonites like myself are in a position where they have to explain their reasoning. Of cousre, I think anyone making an argument in public ought to be able to explain thier reasoning, but I digress.

My own runs like this:

If a chemistry student were to say she is committed a believer in phlogiston theory and that she would never consider revising her work or opinions to take into account the “false and pernicious” Periodic Table of Elements, I think many people would question her decision to go into that line of work. Or think of someone studying automotive safety engineering who said he thought seat belts were “immoral” because they allowed people to take risks they wouldn’t have if they weren’t strapped down, and thereby encourage wreckless driving. Imagine him refusing to consult statistics about seat belt’s life-saving capabilities, and replying to instructors who criticize his dangerous designs by saying “Here I stand and can do no other!”  Keeton’s case should send up the same red flags.  She has stated she is not even willing to consider the possibility that any new information might change her opinion on homosexuality. How can anyone be expected to teach someone who enters a classroom and flatly states she is not open to even considering she might be wrong? And insofar as she claims homosexuality is “changable,” despite all the evidence and the consensus of psychiatric authorities, she renders herself analogous to the phlogiston-theorist.

This isn’t about Christianity at all. This is about someone whose beliefs are in contradiction to the established practices and standards of her chosen line of study—in this case, psychology. Crisis counselors don’t affirm gay kids because they have an axe to grind with Christendom or any given sect, but because gay teens kill themselves at heartbreakingly high rates, and they want this to stop.

 Keeton implicitly proposes an alternative to affirmative therapy—she claims that homosexuality is a “changeable” condition, so presumably believes in the effectiveness of “conversion therapy” designed to “cure” homosexuality. The American Psychiatric Association begs to differ; any objective, qualitative study has demonstrated they do nothing to curb same-sex attraction, almost always worsens the mental health of their participants. Keeton’s “alternative” to the rigorous empirical wisdom of the psychiatric establishment can only make LGBT kids even worse off then when they came to her.

But again, the reasons she believes homosexuality is wrong, and that it is her obligation to condemn gay kids and maneuver them into positively destructive “therapies” don’t matter. It’s the beliefs themselves, not their Christian origin, that anyone cares about. And the faculty only cared about those beliefs because they were afraid, even if she was able to finish her education at a different college that didn’t put her through a remediation plan, she’d end up hurting gay kids. They’re worried about children’s lives, not a political agenda.  

Why you are lucky to live at the dawn of the 21st century

Because at the dawn of the 20th, radium suppositories were considered sound medicine.

Cheerleading is a sport–the most dangerous one, in fact

Via NY Times:

Competitive cheerleading is not an official sport that colleges can use to meet gender-equity requirements, a federal judge ruled Wednesday in ordering Quinnipiac University to keep its women’s volleyball team. The parties in the case said it was the first time the issue had been decided by a judge.

Several volleyball players and their coach sued Quinnipiac, in Hamden, Conn., after it announced in March 2009 that it would eliminate the team for budgetary reasons and replace it with a competitive cheer squad.

Quinnipiac contended that the cheerleading squad and other moves kept it in compliance with Title IX, the 1972 law that mandates equal opportunities for men and women in athletics. But Judge Stefan Underhill of United States District Court in Hartford disagreed. University officials responded by saying they would start a women’s rugby team but declined to discuss the future of other teams or say whether they would continue offering scholarships to competitive cheerleaders.

It’s probably a good thing that Quinnipiac is starting a women’s rugby team (I would only say it is definitely a good thing if there sufficient interest to make the program sustainable, as I expect there will be), but  I have to disagree with this assessment on cheerleading. At the competitive level at least, cheerleading is essentially gymnastic with people instead of rings, pommels, and horses, requiring all the training in coordination, balance, and strength to accomplish. Even cheerleaders on the ground, tossing a “flyer” into the air or planted at the bottom of the pyramid, would have to act in concert with his or her teammates with a high degree of percision just to keep their teammates from getting hurt–or hurting themselves, for that matter.

And they do hurt themselves. A lot. Unlike gymnastics, cheerleaders don’t have the safety afforded by mats. If they fall, it’s onto the ground, or hardwood floors. Consequentially, cheerleaders suffer the highest rate of catastrophic injuries–those which put sufferers at risk of permanent disability, paralysis, or death– of any high school athletic activity. An article in the Columbian Missourian elaborates:

Concerns about cheerleading safety arise whenever a high-profile accident occurs. But alarm spiked again this summer when the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, which has been tracking sports safety nationwide for 25 years, reported that cheerleading accounted for two-thirds of all catastrophic injuries among female high school and college athletes.

The total number of “catastrophic” incidents, defined as death or serious injury, such as head or neck damage leading to permanent disability, was relatively small. The center documented just 93 such cases between 1982 and 2007: 67 that occurred among high school students and 26 in college. And although other sports, such as football, produce far more devastating injuries, Mueller, who runs the center, calculated that the numbers translate into a rate of 2.68 catastrophic injuries for every 100,000 female high school cheerleaders, which exceeds the rate for many other high school sports.

“This tells you that cheerleading is dangerous — even more dangerous than football when it comes to the rate,” said  [Frederick[ Mueller, [ a leading sports injury expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,] noting that because there is no reporting system for cheerleading accidents, the problem is probably worse. “I think it’s a serious problem, and it has to be looked at. I think cheerleading has to make some dramatic changes.”

So the question oughtn’t be whether cheerleading is a sport, but whether it’s an enterprise schools ought to be endorsing. Quantitatively, it is demonstrably life-threatening; qualitatively, its benefits are minimal. There’s little scholarship money in it, and the activity is commonly derided or ignored by non-practicioners. There are, of course, also concerns pertaining to objectification, sexism, and on- and off-field harassment. Recognizing that more and more men participate in the activity does little to answer these concerns, as they are always a minority presence, and rather more clothed.

Tonight I am prepared to point out the issues at hand, but not to draw any conclusions from them. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Gel curbs HIV infection

Via Science News:

A new vaginal gel is the first to show promise in preventing HIV infection among women, researchers report. If licensed, the gel could be an effective female-initiated means of HIV prevention, which is especially important in countries like Africa where condom use can be difficult for women to negotiate.

“Now we have a product that can potentially alter this and save millions of lives by preventing HIV infection and preventing death,” says infectious diseases epidemiologist Quarraisha Abdool Karim of Columbia University, who coauthored the study being published online July 19 by Science.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls account for about 60 percent of HIV infections. Currently, these victims have no way to protect themselves against HIV if their male partners refuse to use condoms. Researchers have been working for over a decade to create a topical gel that women can use vaginally to prevent infection, but none has proven successful.

The new gel contains an anti-HIV drug called tenofovir. Tenofovir is already used in pill form because it helps slow HIV’s spread through a patient’s body. The secret to tenofovir’s success as a topical agent may be that it absorbs into the vaginal wall and into the cells targeted by HIV, says infectious-disease epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim, another coauthor on the study. Other gels have had to be sufficiently spread around and present in the vagina during intercourse in order to work, he adds.

Researchers recruited 889 sexually active women between the ages of 18 and 40 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Half of the women were given the tenofovir gel, while the other half were given a placebo. They were instructed to apply the gel 12 hours before and up to 12 hours after intercourse. Both groups were told the drug was experimental and were counseled to also use condoms or another means of HIV prevention.

Compared with the placebo group, women in the tenofovir group showed 39 percent fewer HIV infections. Within the tenofovir group, women who used the gel more than 80 percent of the time had 54 percent fewer infections than women who used the placebo gel with similar diligence.

“It’s refreshing and good news,” says virologist Charlene Dezzutti of the University of Pittsburgh. “A 54 percent protection rate in people who have used the gel consistently is excellent. I don’t think any HIV prevention measures will ever be 100 percent effective. You’ll always have people who don’t use gels regularly, and some people who don’t absorb the gel as well as others.”

The researchers say they intend to do research to confirm the study’s results, figure out why the gel didn’t protect more women and test the gel outside an experimental setting.

Death by chocolate

If the lead doesn’t get you, the corporate spies will.

Should The Pill be available over-the-counter?

Kelley Blanchard makes the affirmative case:

The pill meets F.D.A. criteria for over-the-counter medications. Women don’t need a doctor to tell them whether they need the pill — they know when they are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy. Pill instructions are easy to follow: Take one each day. There’s no chance of becoming addicted. Taking too many will make you nauseated, but won’t endanger your life, in contrast to some over-the-counter drugs, like analgesics. (There are even side benefits to taking the pill, like reduced risks of ovarian and uterine cancer.)It’s true that the pill could be dangerous for women with certain conditions. Women who are 35 or older and smoke, and those with high blood pressure, are at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke if they take oral contraceptives that combine estrogen and progestin. But these are not complicated conditions to identify; women already have to tell their doctor about their health problems when they get a prescription, and research shows that women can screen themselves for contraindications almost as well as providers do.