A former graduate student has lost a lawsuit against her school for her expulsion over her views concerning homosexuality in a case that has drawn national interest.
Jennifer Keeton, 24, was enrolled in the counseling program at Augusta State University in 2009, but was informed by school officials that she would be removed from the program unless she changed her "central religious beliefs on human nature and conduct," according to the civil complaint.
According to the lawsuit, Keeton was informed by school officials that she would be asked to take part in a remediation plan after faculty concerns arose about her beliefs regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.
After stating that she would not be able to tread on her religious beliefs Keeton was expelled.
"[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," according to the lawsuit.
The Code of Ethics at Augusta State University prohibits counselors from discriminating based on various factors, including gender identity and sexual orientation.
"Counselors do not discriminate against clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants in a manner that has a negative impact on these persons," the code states.
Judge J. Randall Hall, of the Southern District of Georgia, oversaw the case and issued his decision based on the fact that given the stated code of ethics the school was justified in their actions.
"Keeton's speech and conduct were evidently impelled by the absolutist philosophical character of her beliefs, but that character does not entitle her to university accommodation and it is irrelevant to the court's analysis," Hall wrote.
He added, "neutrality as a legal standard is immutable; it does not bend to the strength or tenor of personal conviction."
In Hall's ruling, he explained that the government has the right to regulate certain professional conduct, as long as it does not single out a particular religion in doing so.