November 29, 2011

ACLU Filed Amicus Brief that Argues University Can Hold Counseling Students to Professional Ethics Standards

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ATLANTA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is slated to hear arguments today in the case of a graduate student seeking reinstatement in the Augusta State University (ASU) counseling program. The student, Jennifer Keeton, seeks a court order allowing her to participate in clinical training even though she insists on a right – rooted in her religious beliefs – to counsel lesbian, gay and bisexual clients that being gay is immoral. Keeton had aspirations to become a guidance counselor working with students in grades K-12.

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. Keeton previously asked a district court to require the university to allow her to participate in the university’s counseling program without agreeing not to tell gay clients that being gay is immoral. The district denied her request. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting ASU’s right to insist that its students comply with these professional standards when counseling clients.

“We’re all entitled to our own religious beliefs, but counselors cannot use their religion to discriminate against students who come to them for help,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the ACLU. “This is especially important for LGBT students in crisis, who may have already faced rejection and judgment from their community, and who may not have any other trusted adult to talk to.”

The ACLU’s amicus brief can be found at:

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