Now in court: Student wants to conduct anti-gay counseling

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A federal appeals court in Atlanta this week is hearing the case of a Christian counseling student who alleges that her school unconstitutionally suspended her because she planned to tell her clients that being gay is morally wrong.

The Associated Press has been following the 1st Amendment case filed by Jennifer Keeton, a graduate school counseling student at Georgia's Augusta State University. The case was rejected last year by a district court judge and is before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

After enrolling in a graduate counseling program in fall 2009, Keeton, a devout Christian, began discussing how she wanted to engage in "conversion therapy," in which a counselor attempts to "cure" homosexuality, the news service reports.

Keeton was slated to do some counseling work at middle and high schools as a requirement for completion of her degree, and faculty members were worried that her ideas could be harmful to children.

When Keeton said she would have a hard time working with gay students, the university -- concerned that she was violating ethical guidelines from the American Counseling Assn. -- put her on probation and threatened expulsion unless she engaged in "remediation." Such remediation included reading counseling literature, going to sensitivity training and socializing at Augusta's gay pride parade.

"She was told, 'You don't have to believe it. You just have to say you do,'" her attorney, Jeff Shafer, told the court.

Keeton's suit alleges that she was subject to sanction because she "holds Christian ethical convictions," a violation of her constitutional right to free speech.

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-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta

Photo: Gay rights rally participants march under a rainbow flag in Hong Kong on Nov. 12. Credit: Vincent Yu/Associated Press

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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