Georgia Federal Court Dismisses Christian Counselor's Attempt to Opt-Out of Gay Counseling


Religion Clause:

In Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, (SD GA, June 22, 2012), a Georgia federal district court, in a lengthy opinion, dismissed claims by a former graduate student in Augusta State University's graduate counselor education program that her constitutional rights were infringed when she was dismissed for refusing to complete a required remediation plan. The remediation requirements were imposed when graduate student Jennifer Keeton, a devout Christian, told faculty that she would not condone the propriety of homosexual relations or a homosexual identity in a counseling situation. This position violates professional ethical standards of the American Counseling Association that require counselors to respect the diversity of their clients and avoid imposing values on them that are inconsistent with counseling goals. The court rejected both Keeton's facial overbreadth and vagueness challenges as well as her "as applied" challenges to the remediation plan. Finding no viewpoint discrimination against Keeton, the court said...

...The court also rejected Keeton's "compelled speech" claim, saying that when someone voluntarily chooses a profession, the person must comply with its rules and ethical requirements. Finally the court rejected Keetons's free exercise of religion, unconstitutional condition and equal protection challenges.

The court's decision was consistent with an earlier 11th Circuit decision in the case that refused to grant a preliminary injunction because plaintiff had not shown a substantial likelihood of succeeding on the merits. (See prior posting.) SPLC reports on the district court's latest decision.