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Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley

Last Update: December 20, 2011

What's at Stake

Jennifer Keeton, a student at Augusta State University (ASU), sought a court order requiring ASU to reinstate her in a graduate-level counseling program even though she insisted on a right – rooted in her religious beliefs – to counsel lesbian, gay and bisexual clients that being gay is immoral. ASU's counseling program requires its graduate students to adhere to the American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics, which prohibits counselors from discriminating based on sexual orientation, among other characteristics, and requires them to avoid imposing their values on their clients. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting ASU's right to require its students to comply with these professional standards when counseling clients.

Status: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a public university graduate counseling program can require its students to follow the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics. The court rejected Ms. Keeton’s claims that her rights to religious freedom and free speech under the United States Constitution barred the university from enforcing the code of ethics in her case.

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