Category Archives: Georgia

Georgia Columnist: "Support of Same-Sex Marriage May Hurt Democrats"

Jerry Haas writes in the Athens Banner-Herald:

"...There has been a backlash among traditional Democratic supporters. The Rev. William Owens, president and founder of the Coalition of African American Pastors, with a membership of 3,742 black pastors, has stated that it is time for African Americans to rethink their support for Obama based on the president’s stance on same-sex marriage. Owens has, in fact, mounted a national campaign aimed at that goal.

“The time has come for a broad-based assault against the powers that be who want to change our culture to one of men marrying men and women marrying women ... they have chosen to cater to the homosexual community, they have chosen to cater to Hollywood, to cater to big money and ignore the people who put the president where he is,” Williams said.

The recent reports on the Democratic Party platform are certain to stoke the CAAP fires, and give Owens a reason to lead more African Americans away from the Democratic Party.

Likewise, it may give other evangelical Christians who have doggedly continued to support Democratic candidates a reason to reflect on how the party’s stands on social issues speak toward a biblical worldview."

Georgia Federal Court Dismisses Christian Counselor's Attempt to Opt-Out of Gay Counseling

Religion Clause:

In Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, (SD GA, June 22, 2012), a Georgia federal district court, in a lengthy opinion, dismissed claims by a former graduate student in Augusta State University's graduate counselor education program that her constitutional rights were infringed when she was dismissed for refusing to complete a required remediation plan. The remediation requirements were imposed when graduate student Jennifer Keeton, a devout Christian, told faculty that she would not condone the propriety of homosexual relations or a homosexual identity in a counseling situation. This position violates professional ethical standards of the American Counseling Association that require counselors to respect the diversity of their clients and avoid imposing values on them that are inconsistent with counseling goals. The court rejected both Keeton's facial overbreadth and vagueness challenges as well as her "as applied" challenges to the remediation plan. Finding no viewpoint discrimination against Keeton, the court said...

...The court also rejected Keeton's "compelled speech" claim, saying that when someone voluntarily chooses a profession, the person must comply with its rules and ethical requirements. Finally the court rejected Keetons's free exercise of religion, unconstitutional condition and equal protection challenges.

The court's decision was consistent with an earlier 11th Circuit decision in the case that refused to grant a preliminary injunction because plaintiff had not shown a substantial likelihood of succeeding on the merits. (See prior posting.) SPLC reports on the district court's latest decision. Company Responds to NOM Campaign in Student Newspaper in Georgia

Adina Solomon writing for the independent student newspaper of the University of Georgia Red and Black:

Not everyone wants to stop off at Starbucks for a morning latte.

In January, Starbucks issued a statement from Kalen Holmes, executive vice president of the Seattle-based company, supporting Washington state legislation recognizing same-sex marriage.

“This important legislation is aligned with Starbucks business practices and upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners,” Holmes wrote. “It is core to who we are and what we value as a company.”

More than 25,000 people have signed a petition boycotting Starbucks on, according to the website.

... The Red & Black received multiple emails from on behalf of people across Georgia protesting Starbucks’ stance.

... Individual locations of Starbucks do not comment to the media. But a Starbucks company spokesman wrote in an email that Starbucks’ stance has not affected its business.

“Starbucks has many constituents and from time to time we will make decisions that are consistent with our values and heritage but may be inconsistent with the views of a particular group,” the spokesman wrote.

Georgia Congressional Candidates Spar Over Who is More Pro-Marriage

Jim Galloway of Political Insider on two GOP candidates jockeying over whose pro-marriage conservative credentials are more solid:

You can tell we’re reaching the end of the 2012 session of the Legislature – election-year attacks have already resumed.

The 9th District congressional campaign of Doug Collins, a state lawmaker from Gainesville, has signaled that gay marriage will have its traditional place in the Republican primary – by passing along statements made by Collins’ chief rival, north Georgia radio talk show host Martha Zoller.

Why is this an issue? Because Georgian conservatives care about marriage!

11th Circuit Sides with CDC Against Woman Who Refused to do Same-Sex Counseling

One News Now:

A federal appeals court has upheld the firing of a Christian counselor who lost her job at the Centers for Disease Control for refusing to advise a woman in a homosexual relationship.

Marcia Walden launched a lawsuit in 2008 saying she was illegally laid off by a company the CDC hired to provide counseling to CDC workers. She said the CDC requested the dismissal.

Walden said the layoff violated her free exercise rights under the First Amendment and her rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But on Tuesday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a federal judge's dismissal of Walden's claims.

"We accept that Ms. Walden's sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit her from encouraging or supporting same-sex relationships though counseling," the court said. But the record in the case is "devoid of evidence" supporting her claim that she was removed because she needed to refer potential clients engaged in same-sex relationships to other counselors.

In response, the Alliance Defense Fund has released a statement that reads: "A counselor who is a Christian shouldn't lose her job for upholding the highest professional standards. It is unlawful to punish a Christian for abiding by her faith, particularly when she made every effort to accommodate the interests of a potential client. We are disappointed that the court ruled against these fundamental principles, but we are determining next steps to ultimately vindicate Marcia and the freedoms for which she's fighting."

11th Circuit Refuses to Grant Preliminary Injunction in ASU Counseling Dispute

The Eleventh Circuit has just rejected a counseling student’s effort to prevent Augusta State University in Georgia from requiring her to participate in a special “remediation plan” to get her to separate her religious beliefs about sexuality from her work as a counselor.

The school made the requirement a condition of her ability to participate in its Masters program for school counselors because faculty objected to comments she made in class discussions and assignments in which she expressed that “she believes GLBTQ ‘lifestyles’ to be "identity confusion” and because of “unsolicited reports from another student that she related her interest in conversion therapy for GLBTQ populations, and she has tried to convince other students to support and believe her views.”

The student has sued to prevent being forced out of the program if she does not complete the plan and sought to have a federal court issue a preliminary injunction to keep the school from enforcing the requirement immediately. In deciding whether the injunction should be issued, the court assessed the constitutional claims and decided that the student would likely lose since the school’s requirement did not, the court held, single her out for unfair treatment because of her religious beliefs but because of her desire to act on those beliefs in her work.

Since she is not likely to prevail on the constitutional claim, the court did not think an injunction should be issued. Unless the 11th Circuit panel’s decision is reversed or the school changes its requirement, the student will be forced to fulfill the special requirement or be kicked out of the Masters program. Her discrimination claim against the school can proceed even if she is forced out but will have to do so despite the 11th Circuit panel’s announcement that she is not likely to win on her constitutional claims unless she can show new evidence or provide new arguments.

The Eleventh Circuit decision can be found here (PDF).

AP on Jennifer Keeton's Fight to Avoid Expulsion Over Holding Christian Views

The Associated Press reports on Jennifer Keeton's story:

An attorney for a graduate school counseling student told federal judges in Atlanta on Tuesday that the student's First Amendment rights were violated when professors at a Georgia university sought to punish her for her biblical views on gay rights.

Augusta State University put Jennifer Keeton on academic probation for saying it would be hard for her to work with gay clients, and threatened to expel her unless she attended events like Augusta's gay pride parade, Keeton's attorney Jeff Shafer told the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"She was told, `You don't have to believe it. You just have to say you do,'" Shafer said.

... She was asked in May 2010 to agree to a remediation plan that would require her to attend sensitivity training, read counseling journals and mix with gays at events like the city's gay pride parade.

Keeton refused to comply with the plan, which she said in court papers would require her to "tell clients wanting to hear it that homosexual sex is moral."

She filed a federal lawsuit claiming the school wanted to expel her because she "holds Christian ethical convictions" on human sexuality and gender identity. A judge rejected her challenge, leading to Tuesday's court arguments.

Counseling Student Appeals Ruling Expelling Her For Christian Ethical Views

Maureen Downey writes:

A grad student at Augusta State University who sued the school over a clash between her grad program requirements and her religious beliefs on gay people is now asking a federal appeals court to block the university from expelling her.

... In 2010, Jennifer Keeton, 24, sued after the college required her to complete a remediation program or face expulsion for her anti-gay beliefs. Her lawsuit states that her views on gays were known to faculty at the university because of her “disagreement in several class discussions and in written assignments with the gay and lesbian ‘lifestyle.’”'

... Keeton has already been rebuffed by the courts. Earlier this year, a U.S. district judge ruled in the university’s favor.

In supporting Augusta State in its actions, the judge wrote, “The record suggests, and the testimony at the hearing bolsters, the Plan was imposed because Plaintiff exhibited an inability to counsel in a professionally ethical manner – that is, an inability to resist imposing her moral viewpoint on counselees – in violation of the ACA Code of Ethics.”

A classmate testified that Keeton said she would be compelled by her beliefs to tell gay or lesbian counseling clients that their behaviors were morally wrong and must be changed.