Monday, 23 August 2010

Suck it up

Spare a thought for poor Jennifer Keeton, a student at Augusta State University, who may soon be packing up her 'Hello Kitty' pencil case and heading home without any qualifications. She's been kicking up a stink about the faculty's insistence that she take a remedial course in order to complete her studies, arguing that her First Amendment rights had been violated.

The problem is, Jennifer wasn't flunking her classes, she was insisting that she knew better. She was objecting to the fact that the counselor education program in which she'd enrolled was expecting her to give moral support and encouragement to gay service users.

As a committed Christian, Jennifer believes that homosexuality "is morally wrong" and would work to help clients "change that behavior." Unsurprisingly, the university took exception to her judgmental position, arguing that it affected her ability to offer emotional guidance, and
recommended that she attended a 'remediation program' that would "address issues of multicultural competence and develop understanding and empathy." The evil bastards.

But Jennifer's not as stupid as she looks (which, admittedly, would be pretty tough) so she did what any beleaguered bigot would do - she called in the big guns to generate some publicity and defend her honour. The
Alliance Defence Fund, a Christian legal defense organisation, saw their chance to create another Carrie Prejean - a media-friendly, pretty blonde poster-child for Church-going America to rally behind.

They were quick to mobilise their forces, with Keeton batting her heavily-lined eyes
at the press and claiming religious persectution: "The school counseling faculty has decided that my views are not acceptable for me or to share with other students. They have required a remediation plan in which the end result would be me altering my beliefs or being dismissed from the program."

The careful wording of this voluntary victimhood approach ensured that Jennifer's media profile rocketed, as news organisations investigated the story in an attempt to uncover an anti-religious conspiracy.

Thankfully, in a rare case of common sense trumping media spin, a
federal court yesterday ruled that the university's stance was 'academically legitimate' - which is a fancy way of saying that a counsellor is supposed to nurture and assist, not sit in judgment.

U.S. District Judge Randal Hall found that the university was not punishing Keeton for her religious views, but was instead attempting to teach her how to counsel without imposing her own views on her clients. Imagine that - an education establishment attempting to educate.

Like Islington registrar Lillian Ladele, who refused to officiate at same-sex civil partnerships, Keeton needs to understand that there's a point where it comes down to the ability to do the job. Moral objections are all well and good, until they get in the way of performing the basic functions of the role.

Perhaps she also needs to see a counsellor - ideally one who can advise on a more appropriate line of work. Let's just hope that they don't pre-judge her as an unemployable idiot.

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