Remediating Christian Beliefs?

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is bringing a lawsuit against representatives of Augusta State University on behalf of Jennifer Keeton, a student in the Counselor Education program. The complaint alleges that Keeton, who intends to become a school counselor, is being asked to go through a remediation plan to “alter her central religious beliefs on human nature and conduct.” What are some of these beliefs?

From page 6 of the complaint:

…sexual behavior is the result of accountable personal choice rather than an inevitability deriving from deterministic forces.  She also has affirmed binary male-female gender, with one or the other being fixed in each person at their creation, and not a social construct or individual choice subject to alteration by the person so created.  Further, she has expressed her view that homosexuality is a “lifestyle,” not a “state of being.”

I am sure that this part of one paragraph does not capture all of Keeton’s beliefs or the layers of complexity reflected in a Christian worldview, but it will be interesting to watch where this goes. This is a different complaint than that by Julea Ward against Eastern Michigan University, in which Ward says she would not want to counsel a homosexual client about that person’s same-sex relationship in a way that affirmed same-sex behavior as morally good. It didn’t get to that point with Keeton, apparently. The alleged remediation here comes from class papers, discussions, and conversations outside of class.

I have been in academics long enough to know that there are always two sides to a story, so it will be important to see how the university officials respond and what their perspective is on the complaint. But it would be concerning if a program was unwilling to respect the conventional religious beliefs and values of students.

There is a unique opportunity here to help all students expand their multicultural competence by identifying differences and finding ways to engage one another and provide appropriate services (or make appropriate referrals) in a way that demonstrates respect for multiple expressions of diversity, including sexual orientation and religion. Faculty and supervisors, too, have an opportunity to model this respect for multiple expressions of diversity to their students and supervisees, and they have an opportunity and an obligation to train their students in ways that recognize and respect our diverse society and the real value differences that exist within the broader culture.