By James Tillman

AUGUSTA, Georgia, August 24, 2010 (—On Friday, a federal judge denied student Jennifer Keeton’s request for an injunction prohibiting Augusta State University from expelling her while her case is being decided, if she does not attend “diversity sensitivity training” on homosexuality.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal organization representing Keeton, appealed District Judge J. Randal Hall’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Monday.

Keeton, 24, is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at ASU. According to ADF lawyers, after her professors learned of her biblical beliefs regarding homosexual conduct, they imposed a mandatory re-education plan on her.

She was told to attend workshops to improve her sensitivity towards homosexuals, to complete remedial reading, and to write papers describing the impact of such measures on her beliefs.

Professors also suggested that she increase her exposure and interaction with the “gay community” by doing things such as attending a gay pride parade.

In an ADF video, Keeton said that “while I want to stay in the school counseling program, I know that I can’t honestly complete the remediation plan knowing that I would have to alter my beliefs.”

Attorneys with the ADF brought a case against the school alleging that the school had violated Keeton’s 1st Amendment rights by engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

ADF lawyers had requested an injunction preventing Keeton’s expulsion while the case proceeded. Judge Hall ruled that although Keeton “may ultimately prevail in this case, the current record reveals that she has failed to clearly establish her high burden of persuasion of a ‘substantial likelihood’ of success on the merits of her case.”

Hall also stated that the remedial plan was apparently imposed not because of Keeton’s beliefs, but because she 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 [American Counseling Association] Code of Ethics.”

The ACA Code of Ethics states that counselors are to “avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals.”

According to Judge Hall, the faculty had not asked Keeton to change her beliefs, and had made clear “that it was not [the] Plaintiff’s personal beliefs that were their concern, but rather only her inability to separate her personal beliefs in the judgement-free zone of a professional counseling situation.”

For this reason he said that the defendants’ reasons for “imposing the Remediation Plan appear to be, on the evidence presented, academically legitimate, rather than a mere pretext to retaliate against her for expressing her beliefs.”

See related coverage:

Augusta State Univ. to Counseling Student: Change Beliefs or Get Out

Another Counseling Student Harrassed for Christian Beliefs Appeals Court Ruling