I grow tired quite often of listening to my community spew intolerance so freely. Today, I read that Augusta State University graduate student Jennifer Keeton has been told by the head of the graduate program she attends – counseling – that she must change her views on homosexuality or be expelled.
Well…that’s the dumbed-down version. The exact wording was, “[Augusta State University] faculty have promised to expel Miss Keeton from the graduate Counselor Education Program not because of poor academic showing or demonstrated deficiencies in clinical performance, but simply because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she holds to Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and gender identity.” At least that’s what the Alliance Defense Fund’s lawsuit reads. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it is true, particularly considering some of the stories that have been even worse.
Here’s my first beef with this story: most recently, the GLBT vs. Christian debate in publicly-funded schools across the country (to include high schools) has largely been about membership in school-sponsored organizations. GLBT students have lambasted Christian organizations for kicking out openly gay members because the Christian faith of other members says that you cannot be gay and a Christian. They have gone so far as to take the fight to court, and have even won. Their argument is that any publicly-funded school that sponsors student organizations in any way, shape or form, even by merely allowing them to gather on campus (which requires a member of faculty to be present in all cases), cannot allow such discrimination to continue against GLBT students who wish to be part of any group they wish to join. They say it is a violation of basic rights to tell a person that because they are gay, they cannot join this group or that group.
Personally I don’t see the point in wishing to belong to a group that doesn’t agree with such a large facet of your personality, but that’s just me. I’d also point out that if discrimination is going to be banned among student groups then we need to start suing ivy-league institutions who are so picky about who gets into their student body. What, you say if a person isn’t smart enough they can’t be part of your snooty little club? I say that’s discrimination.
Any time any gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered person feels slighted by the rules of a group, they immediately cry foul. We as a community (there’s that “we” again!) seem to think that tolerance means we’ll never be shut out of anything. On the contrary. Tolerance means that they live in peace with us while they disagree with our lifestyle, which the vast majority of them are actually doing, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. I won’t even acknowledge the marriage debate in that statement because I don’t see that as being a part of the quest for tolerance.
Then we have moments like these, when we are the ones being intolerant. “She believes being gay is a sin! She can’t be allowed to finish her education, lest she spread her wicked intolerance like a disease! Expel her! Cast her OUT!!!” In these moments, we become exactly that which we point out in Christians: despicable hypocrites.
Estate lawyer and political blogger Michael Hamar has weighed in, and has done so predictably:
“Frankly, if those are Keeton’s views, she needs to be expelled from a program that would giver her a graduate degree and unloose her on an unsuspecting public. EVERY legitimate medical and mental health association holds that homosexuality is NOT a choice, is not changeable and the APA has condemned ex-gay therapy as unethical. If Ms. Keeton wants to be a licensed professional in this field, she needs to embrace scientific knowledge or find a different area of endeavor where she will not be likely harming patients. Personally, I am way over supposed professionals wrapping themselves in ignorant religious based bigotry and then playing the martyr.”
This particular comment was sandwiched between crass jokes about Carrie Prejean, fake boobs, sex tapes and so-called manufactured martyrdom. Classy, isn’t it?
It is not up to anybody to tell Jennifer Keeton or anybody else what they should or shouldn’t believe. It isn’t up to anybody to tell her that she can or cannot remain in a particular educational program because her beliefs differ from the accepted norm. What I have been able to gather from the reports I’ve read is that she hasn’t made this an issue; it has come up in private conversation and in one or two classroom discussions, but Keeton apparently hasn’t made it an issue in her writing assignments. If the school really is basing their ultimatum on private conversations then they are entirely out of line. Her religious beliefs should bear no weight on the decision to allow her to finish her courses and graduate.
What many in our community have continually failed to grasp is that any rules or laws we attempt to put in place – particularly those governing discrimination – don’t just apply to them. They apply to us, too. If we are going to scream bloody murder about publicly-funded educational institutions allowing student groups to discriminate, then we have no business trying to discriminate against Christians who happen to disagree with us. It’s a two-way street.
Tolerance and acceptance are not the same thing. Christians who disagree with the homsexual lifestyle will always exist. I am still a Christian, and I know that my Christian friends are disheartened by my lifestyle but they still love me. If I needed them they’d still be there. I refuse to sit by and allow my fellow gays and lesbians to turn the very monster they claim to loathe on others.
Let Jennifer Keeton finish her studies. Let her graduate. Do so without requirement that she change her beliefs. What she does with her education is up to her. If it weren’t, then I would say colleges across the country should kick out any student who does not intend to apply their degree to some standard pre-set by the institution. With every case like this, we hover dangerously closer to being the Nazis we accuse others of being. It would be an irony of the strangest kind if Keeton were to win her case based on the precedent set by the GLBT students’ fight to force all student groups to obey open-membership, anti-discrimination rules.