Pink triagnle

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.

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.

DOJ will appeal fed. court’s striking down of DADT

Via The Advocate:

The Department of Justice asked a federal judge Thursday to continue enforcing the military’s ban on gay and lesbian service members, despite a ruling earlier this month that struck down “don’t ask, don’t tell” as unconstitutional.

In a 14-page filing, Justice Department attorneys argued that an immediate, permanent injunction against enforcing the law —one supported by Log Cabin Republicans, which successfully challenged DADT in court and has argued for a halt to all discharges of gay service members — would be “untenable.” (A PDF of the government’s brief is here.)

“Because any injunction in this case must be limited to [Log Cabin Republicans] and the claims it asserts on behalf of its members – and cannot extend to non-parties – plaintiff’s requested world-wide injunction of [DADT] fails as a threshold matter,” assistant U.S. attorney Paul Freeborne wrote.

DADT repeal advocates and attorneys representing Log Cabin Republicans immediately slammed the Justice Department’s filing. Dan Woods, lead attorney for the national gay Republican group, called the arguments “ridiculous” and said his team would file a response as soon as Friday.

“It’s our view that the objections fail to recognize the implications of the government’s defeat at this trial,” Woods told The Advocate. “This case was never limited to only Log Cabin members. And the request for a stay ignores the harm that would be suffered by current and potential service members during a period of the stay.”

In a late Thursday statement, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the filing “in no way diminishes the President’s firm commitment to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT — indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.”   

But Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson, the only named plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the Obama administration “had a choice to take several different routes [with the injunction], from the moderate and reasonable to the extremely ridiculous. It appears that they decided to go with the latter end of the spectrum.”

Nicholson said the DOJ’s filing further erodes faith in the administration for many gays and lesbians seeking substantive change. “Lately a lot of us were holding out hope that there would be a semi-reasonable response to this judicial victory. It appears that [Obama] might be disappointing us yet again,” he said.

Thank gosh the Obama administration is a fierce advocate for LGBT rights. Otherwise, it would look like he’s not doing a damn thing for them. Via Dan Savage:

Where was the President when the Senate was debating DADT on Tuesday? AWOL. He made no public statements, he couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone and call a single wavering Senator to ask for their vote. But he did have time to make at least one call on Tuesday: “Earlier today, President Obama called members of the Seattle Storm organization, to congratulate them on winning the WNBA Finals for the second time …”

BREAKING: GOP blocks DADT repeal

Senate Republicans, rallying behind former repeal advocate John McCain, blocked a defense appropriations bill that would have repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. So the United States remains in the ranks of such illustrious nations as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Red Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea, which prohibit out-gays from armed service.

The two Democratic senators from Arkansas–one of the two states in the union to still fly the stars and bars in their flag–also voted against the measure. They are Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. Direct your anathema at them.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted against the measure, but only in order to exploit a quibbling parliamentarian rule by which he can reindtroduce a bill he voted against at a later date.

Personal note: Fucking hell. John McCain is such a sleaze-weasel. First he inflicts Sarah Palin on an unsuspecting nation, and now this?