It often seems as if political correctness hasn’t any boundaries. Recently an Augusta State University counseling student filed a lawsuit against her university claiming it violated her First Amendment rights when she was allegedly told to change her traditional Christian views on homosexuality or leave.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed suit on behalf of Jennifer Keaton seeking to prevent the expulsion from her master’s degree program.
According to David French, the ADF attorney representing Keaton, “They [college officials] made a cascading series of presumptions about the kind of a counselor she would be and have consequently . . . tried to force her to change her beliefs. It’s symbolic of an educational system that has lost its way.”
The suit claims that program officials were upset that Keaton stated her belief that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and not a “state of living.”
According to the suit, the university wants her to undergo “thought reform” intended to alter her perception. Most significantly, she faces expulsion unless she complies.
To exacerbate matters within the department, Keaton argued the “conversion therapy” for homosexuals should be entertained, a point of view that departed significantly from accepted norms within the program and according to program officials, from “psychological research.”
It is noteworthy that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) defends the practice Keaton advocates and notes opponents of conversion therapy are often criticized by politically motivated biases, albeit, in fairness, the reverse accusation might also be made.
The Augusta State University counseling program required Keaton to attend at least three pro-gay sensitivity training courses, read pro-gay peer reviewed journals, and participate in Augusta’s gay pride parade.
She was also asked to familiarize herself with the Association of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Issues in “Counseling” webpage, which defines homosexual behavior as healthy and an appropriate way of life.
Without getting into the merits of the case and the claims in the lawsuit, it seems to me that if even a portion of the allegation is accurate the Augusta counseling program is engaged in a form of thought control that hasn’t any place in the Academy.
As I see it, if there are diametrically different positions on the nature-nurture argument regarding homosexuality both points of view, with empirical evidence marshaled for each side, should be entertained and given a fair hearing.
In far too many instances a university orthodoxy is confused with the rational exegesis of an idea.
Here is the rub: University life predicated on the free and open exchange of opinion has often become a filtering mechanism for politically correct ideas.
Those who do not share this view are chastised or, in Ms. Keaton’s case, put through a thought control exercise.
It is interesting that Ms. Keaton’s religiously based view of homosexuality is disregarded, even though one could argue her First Amendment rights are being violated.
Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and author of the book "Decline and Revival in Higher Education" (Transaction).
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