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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.  

Shirvell finally off Assist. AG duty

But he’s not fired:

An assistant attorney general who has attracted national attention for a controversial blog that ridicules and denounces a University of Michigan student leader for his gay advocacy, religious beliefs and character has taken a personal leave following intense public scrutiny, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox said today.

Cox spokesman John Sellek said, however, Andrew Shirvell will be the subject of a disciplinary hearing after he returns to work at an undetermined future date.

One imagines he bowed to public and private pressure, like Michigan’s Gov. Jennifer Granholm, like the following tweet published by Gov. Jennifer Granholm:

Muck Fichigan

Andrew Shirvell, the borderline assistant attorney general of systemically harassing Chris Armstrong, a gay student councilmember at the University of Michigan, was defended by Attorney General Michael Cox. He is just as detached from basic decency and the universe of acceptable discourse as his employee. It’s more disgusting than watching Shirvell himself; it’s one thing to be a sick, sick man like him, and another thing entirely to defend his insanity.

And besides allowing poor Armstrong to suffer, Cox’s equivocating is doing violence to Shirvell himself. Cox is letting a clearly sick man humiliate himself on national television, denigrate his party and office, and preclude himself from employment within a realm of constructively critical discourse that he desperately needs to participate in.

Dude Be Crazy

Via Chicago Suntimes Roger Ebert’s Blog:

“It’s one of the strangest stories, I gotta tell you, that we’ve reported on recently,” says Anderson Cooper — and man, is he correct.

Watching this video is hypnotic. Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has launched a frenzied web assault on the president of the University of Michigan student body, a man he asserts is “Satan’s representative on the student council.”

Study Shirvell closely here. You may, as I do, see a prim, repressed, rigid fanatic.

As Cooper pointedly asks, would you want this man representing you? Cooper refers to Shirvell representing a hypothetical gay person. I am straight, and I gotta tell you, I wouldn’t even want to be on the same internet with him.

 

Shirvell doesn’t seem to actually grasp the fact that Armstrong is not a political figure in the sense that Shirvell wants him to be. He was not elected by public citizens, but by students at the University of Michigan. I am just wondering how Shirvell isn’t getting in legal trouble for libel and slander.


Judge orders servicemember expelled under DADT reinstated

It’s been a confusing month for DADT; first, a federal judge ruled the law unconstitutional, but it’s still in effect as the DOJ promised to appeal, and an effort to slip in a legislative repeal was aborted by Senate Republicans. And now…

A federal judge ruled Friday that a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay should be given her job back as soon as possible in the latest legal setback to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton came in a closely watched case as a tense debate has been playing out over the policy. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to lift the ban this week, but Leighton is now the second federal judge this month to deem the policy unconstitutional. Maj. Margaret Witt was suspended in 2004 and subsequently discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy after the Air Force learned she had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian woman. She sued to get her job back. Leighton hailed her as a “central figure in a long-term, highly charged civil rights movement.” Tears streaked down Witt’s cheeks and she hugged her parents, her partner and supporters following the ruling.

“Today you have won a victory in that struggle, the depth and duration of which will be determined by other judicial officers and hopefully soon the political branches of government,” the judge told her, choking up as he recalled Witt’s dramatic testimony about her struggles.

It seems inevitible that either this case or the Log Cabin Republicans’ will end up before the Supreme Court sooner rather than later; so a chance (I cannot say if it is a good or bad one) that the policy will be nullified even if when the GOP takes back Congress next year.

It’s been going on forever, ctd.

ABC News profiles Sr. Mary MacKillop, a 19th century Australian nun and founder of the  Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, now up for sainthood, but who was excommunicated in her lifetime for trying to report child rape by a priest:

Mary MacKillop, the nun who will soon be Australia’s first saint, was excommunicated by the Catholic Church because she discovered children were being abused by a priest and went public, the ABC’s Compass program can reveal.

In 1871, after only four years as a nun, she was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and turned out onto the street with no money and nowhere to go.

MacKillop’s cause for sainthood began in 1925 and has had the tireless backing of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the order she founded.

On October 17, MacKillop’s canonisation by Pope Benedict XVI will be a momentous occasion for Australia’s 5 million Roman Catholics.

But these new revelations show there were some in the church who set out to destroy the order that put her on the path to sainthood.

While serving with the Sisters of St Joseph, MacKillop and her fellow nuns heard disturbing stories about a priest, Father Keating from the Kapunda parish north of Adelaide, who was allegedly abusing children.

They told their director, a priest called Father Woods, who then went to the Vicar General.

The Vicar General subsequently sent Father Keating back to his home country of Ireland, where he continued to serve as a priest.

Father Paul Gardiner, who has pushed for MacKillop’s canonisation for 25 years, says Father Keating’s fellow Kapunda priest Father Horan swore revenge on the nun for uncovering the abuse.

“The story of the excommunication amounts to this: that some priests had been uncovered for being involved in the sexual abuse of children,” he said.

“The nuns told him and he told the Vicar General who was in charge at the time and he took severe action.

“And Father Horan, one of these priests, was so angry with this that he swore vengeance – and there’s evidence for this – against Woods by getting at the Josephites and destroying them.”

Father Horan was by now working for Adelaide’s Bishop Shiel and urged him to break the sisters up by changing their rules.

When MacKillop refused to comply, she was banished from the church at the age of 29.

“Mary was not excommunicated, in fact or in law. She submitted to a farcical ceremony where the Bishop had … lost it,” Father Gardiner said.

“He was a puppet being manipulated by malicious priests. This sounds terrible but it’s true.”

Five months later Bishop Shiel was gravely ill and dying. From his deathbed he instructed that MacKillop be absolved and restored.

A statement from the Sisters of St Joseph says the events of September 1871 have “been comprehensively documented”.

“There were several factors that led to this painful period for Mary and the sisters,” the statement said.

“The reasons for Mary’s excommunication have been written about and commented on in the public domain since that time. This is consistent with the information contained in the Compass program.”