Tuesday, December 20, 2011

11th Circuit Upholds School's Insistence That Counseling Student Follow Professional Standards For GLBTQ Clients

In Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, (11th Cir., Dec. 16, 2011), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a preliminary injunction to an Augusta State University graduate student seeking a degree in counseling who claimed that her free speech rights were violated when the school insisted she take part in a remediation plan. Student Jennifer Keeton made it clear that because of her Christian religious beliefs that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, she would have difficulty working with GLBTQ clients. The court said:
We conclude that the evidence in this record does not support Keeton’s claim that ASU’s officials imposed the remediation plan because of her views on homosexuality. Rather, as the district court found, the evidence shows that the remediation plan was imposed because she expressed an intent to impose her personal religious views on her clients, in violation of the ACA Code of Ethics, and that the objective of the remediation plan was to teach her how to effectively counsel GLBTQ clients in accordance with the ACA Code of Ethics....
As the curricular requirement that students comply with the ACA Code of Ethics is neutral and generally applicable, it needs only to survive rational basis review. It easily satisfies this test, as it is rationally related to ASU’s legitimate interest in offering an accredited counseling program.
Judge Pryor filed a concurring opinion. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the court's decision.