You’ve probably seen this story: The Alliance Defense Fund is suing Augusta University in Georgia on behalf of Jennifer Keeton, a 24 year old Masters in Counseling student. She has been ordered by the university to change her beliefs or be kicked out of their program.
Keeton expressed her Christian views in classes at times, equating the gay lifestyle with identity confusion. Counseling faculty claim her beliefs violate the code of ethics that counselors (and counselors in training) must adhere to, including those of the American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor Association.
According to news reports, Keeton must enter a remediation program which includes “three workshops on diversity, a monthly two-page reflection on what she has learned from research into LGBT counseling issues, and increased exposure to gay populations. The latter action came with the suggestion that she attend Augusta’s gay pride parade.”
David French, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, says this is an emerging issue in the counseling and social work fields and that “requiring a student to change his or her beliefs to graduate is ‘punishment of free speech.'”
This story is of particular interest to me since I have a Master’s degree in counseling. While The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders had already been changed regarding sexual identity issues by the time I was studying, codes of ethics allowed counselors to refer clients to other professionals if they could not in conscience counsel them.
Sadly this was no longer the case when Julea Ward, a student at Eastern Michigan University’s School of Counseling, asked her advisor about how to help a client with his or her same-sex relationship since Ward couldn’t “morally affirm such relationships.” The university then dismissed Ward from the program in 2009 and the case is now being litigated in court.
Codes of ethics are important guidelines for helping professionals. But what ultimately must be affirmed is the freedom counselors have to hold their own beliefs. That Keeton and Ward would be booted out of their graduate programs is ridiculous. I hope both universities get the pants sued right off of them.