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Student in gay counseling case loses in court

ATLANTA (BP) — Counseling student Jennifer Keeton will not be returning to Augusta State University while she fights against the school’s attempt to make her complete a remediation plan designed to change her views on homosexuality.

In early December, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Keeton’s request for a preliminary injunction, which would have forced the school to allow her to complete her studies while the case works its way through the courts.

The Alliance Defense Fund, representing Keeton, filed suit against the east Georgia school in July 2010 after administrators put her on academic probation for acknowledging in private conversations and during class that she disagreed with homosexuality. School administrators claimed Keeton said it would be hard for her to counsel gay clients, a stance they said violated ethical standards for licensed counselors, as put forth by the American Counseling Association.

After putting her on probation, school administrators required Keeton to complete a remediation plan that included going to gay pride events, attending sensitivity training and writing monthly reflection papers.

In arguments before a three-judge 11th Circuit panel, ADF attorney Jeff Shafer said Keeton’s First Amendment rights were violated because the school targeted her for her expressed viewpoints. He compared the school’s attempt to alter Keeton’s beliefs in order to remain in the counseling program to a business school that required students to affirm capitalism or disavow socialism in order to graduate.

Attorneys on both sides have declined to comment outside the courtroom, after a judge prohibited public statements about the case.

Keeton has requested a jury trial in the Augusta Division of the U.S. District Court. A trial date has not been set.
Leigh Jones writes for World News Service, where this story first appeared.

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