Jennifer Keeton, who filed suit a month ago to keep herself from being expelled from a graduate counseling program that required her to have some basic sensitivity towards LGBT people, lost her case:
In his ruling, Judge Hall tried hard to keep the case from becoming a culture wars flash point. "[T]his is not a case pitting Christianity against homosexuality," he wrote. What the case was about, he wrote, was the right of a public university to enforce reasonable academic standards. He wrote that "matters of educational policy should be left to educators and it is not the proper role of federal judges to second guess an educator's professional judgment."
The ruling noted that the standards for Keeton winning her injunction were quite high, and that the full record of the case has not been reviewed. But the judge framed the case as one of academic rights -- and he did so in a similar way to the ruling last month by another federal judge. In a full ruling in that case, the judge upheld the right of a counseling program at Eastern Michigan University to kick out a master's student who declined to counsel gay clients in an affirming way -- as required by the university program and counseling associations.
The Religious Right seems to be under the impression that all education is supposed to follow in the tradition of the liberal arts in which freedom to believe and defend bizarre ideas is considered a positive for everyone's education. The problem is that the liberal arts are, by definition, not about preparing people for a specific job. And Keeton's field of study was supposed to prepare her to become a counselor, specifically a school counselor, which requires a certain knowledge of psychiatry, sensitivity to those who are different, and a commitment to professional standards that Keeton herself admitted to lacking.
Judge Hall cited several pieces of evidence submitted by the university as showing that Keeton was sanctioned not for her religious views but for the university's belief that she was going to act in ways inconsistent with the professional standards under which it trains students. Faculty members testified that they did not care about Keeton's personal religious beliefs or require that she change them to continue in the program -- only that she agree to treat people within the nondiscriminatory standards of the profession.
The university also submitted affidavits from fellow students in which they said that Keeton told them she planned as a counselor to tell any gay clients that their conduct was "morally wrong" and to try to get them to "change" themselves, and that she would seek to work in schools without any gay people or that she would refer gay people to other counselors. (Counseling standards specifically state that it's not permitted to refer clients because of sexual orientation or other factors, and that counselors are required to be able to work with all groups.)
In his decision, Judge Hall wrote that these facts made the issue not one of religious belief, but of specific curriculum-based decisions appropriately made by a faculty. "[T]he record suggests, and the testimony at the hearing bolsters, that the plan was imposed because plaintiff exhibited an inability to counsel in a professionally ethical manner -- that is, an inability to resist imposing her moral viewpoint on counselees -- in violation of the ACA Code of Ethics, which is part of the ASU counseling program's curriculum."
It'd be like an Amish electrical engineering student arguing that it's part of her religious freedom to not learn the technological parts of the degree. Keeton fully intended not to do 100% of her job and to violate the professional guidelines of her field, so it makes sense for the school to not graduate her.