Tuesday, October 30, 2012

School Can Require Empathy Lesson

Jennifer Keeton wants to be a school counselor. She enrolled in a counseling program at Augusta State University in Georgia.

In June, U.S. District Judge J. Randall Hall wrote that Keeton “ascribes absolute truth to the proposition that homosexuality is an immoral lifestyle choice rather than an immutable state of being, and she endorses a universal moral prescription against homosexual conduct.…

“According to Keeton, her opinions regarding homosexuality derive from her Christian faith.”

Keeton planned to impose these views on her clients. Keeton’s teachers assigned her a remedial project to increase her “multicultural competence” and “understanding and empathy” toward homosexuals.

Keeton viewed the assignment as a punishment for her religious beliefs. She felt that “The entire process sought to change her beliefs—not just regarding homosexuality but also the transcendence of her biblical convictions—and to force her to affirm viewpoints Defendants prefer.”

One of her teachers explained, “The alteration of beliefs that [faculty] were looking for is that Miss Keeton would no longer believe that her views should be shared by other people.”

Keeton refused the assignment, and she was dropped from the program.

She sued in U.S. District Court, seeking a return to the program without doing the remedial assignment. She claimed that the assignment violated a variety of rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Free Speech and Equal Protection Clauses.

The American Counseling Association (ACA) accredits counselors for public schools. It accredits only those who adhere to its code of ethics.

The code requires counselors to serve their clients without imposing their personal values. Therefore, public university counseling programs teach students to abide by the code. If aspiring counselors feel they can’t set aside their personal beliefs on the job, their teachers provide remedial programs for them.

The Judge Hall rejected Keeton’s claims one by one. He said the faculty had a right to dismiss her. He ended, “When affairs of the conscience ripen into action…government is granted leave to regulate on behalf of certain public interests, including education and professional fitness.”

The case is Keeton v. Augusta.

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