Poor Jennifer Keeton. She made the tragic error of thinking for herself and believing that such behavior would be welcomed, perhaps, even encouraged, in the modern American university setting. Poor benighted Jennifer made that politically incorrect mistake at Augusta State University and now faces expulsion from the graduate degree program in counseling.
Free thought, free inquiry, and free speech are barely on life support, if alive at all, in American academia. To those of us who have spent considerable time in such circles, that news comes as no surprise. The last place you would look for free intellectual inquiry these days is in an American university.
Jennifer's tragic mistake occurred in her holding to the traditional view that homosexual behavior is morally wrong and often psychologically unhealthy. In doing so, Keeton maintained the beliefs and moral convictions of her orthodox Christian faith as articulated by her churches, their scriptures, and by the vast majority of Christians around the globe.
In rebuking Ms. Keeton and seeking to end her dream of becoming a school counselor, the administrators at Augusta State fell back on their desire to have a counseling program that follows the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. One wonders if the administrators have ever even read that code. In particular, the code states, “Counselors are aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals.” That revered code of ethics also states later on, “Counselors do not discriminate against clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants in a manner that has a negative impact on these persons.”
Clearly, Ms. Keeton is aware of her own values and beliefs. No one disputes that fact. What is less clear is who gets to define what “counseling goals” are and what constitutes a “negative impact” on a client. If Ms. Keeton gets to define the goals of counseling as the counselor, there appears to be no problem. She will help guide her clients to evaluate homosexuality in a critical light. End of question.
However, if the client defines the goals (which appears to be the stance of the graduate program), then a number of questions arise. First and foremost among those questions: Should not the helper point the way toward healing rather than the helpee? After all, that is why we seek help in the first place. Something in our lives is not working as we would like. We ask for help from someone likely to be able to provide it. For example, if I go to a doctor with a headache, and ask that doctor to clean my teeth, is that what the doctor is supposed to do? Or should the doctor not do what he/she thinks is in the best interests of my well-being?
Having never met Ms. Keeton, I will nevertheless assume that she would counsel students and clients with homosexual inclinations by first sharing that her own world view holds such inclinations to be one thing but actual behavior to be another. I would expect her to then share that she holds moral reservations and professional concerns about the appropriateness of homosexual behavior. Is that not what a good counselor would do? Share and disclose his/her own perspectives in a spirit of transparency? In doing so, the recipient can determine how far to go in accepting that counselor's wisdom or whether even to seek that person's services at all.
Evidently, in the view of Augusta State and other “counseling schools,” values and transparency are no longer welcome. In their view, a counselor must first erase who he or she is in order to fully enter the world of the counselee. How odd. Why would full self-disclosure to a client about one's own views and morals not be more helpful rather than less so?
The answer lies in political correctness. The typical American college has long since abandoned the notion that any moral is absolute or that any behavior is unequivocally wrong. Ethics have been abandoned in the name of, “If it feels good, do it.” So rather than allowing a thoughtful, reasoned, and widely accepted Christian moral ethic to be a part of the process, counseling programs (not to mention many other academic disciplines) choose instead to censor or expel that with which they disagree. “We believe homosexual behavior is normal, healthy, and to be embraced at all times. You do not. Therefore, you must go.” And, to think, in some places this passes for actual thought! We tolerate all who agree with us. Group think. George Orwell was right.
All of this begs the question: What if, by chance, Ms. Keeton is right? What if sometimes, or even always, homosexual behavior is unhealthy or is a lifestyle decision that clients are not benefiting from?
For example, take the recent research at New Zealand's Otago University that concluded homosexual or bisexual individuals are more likely to have undergone traumas in childhood, including sexual assault, rape, violence, and witnessing violence in the home. In other words, people who either identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual tend to come from more disturbed backgrounds. Is this data not worth at least discussing in a counseling program or session? Should a counselor not be concerned at all that one's sexual behavior and decisions may well be shaped by previous traumas?
Or take the example of the happily married comedienne, Jackie Clune, who has shared at length about abandoning her twelve year experiment as a “committed lesbian” in order to marry and become a mother. She says she craved the “emotional balance” of a heterosexual relationship and realized she had a choice (a truly dirty word to homosexualist activists). In Augusta State's program, pointing Clune toward a healthier lifestyle would not be an option.
Even if Keeton is wrong about the morality and healthfulness of homosexual behavior, should we not still allow her to counsel and encourage her to use transparent self-disclosure as a normal operating practice? After all, we ask universities and colleges to encourage the free exchange of thought in a vigorous pursuit of truth and excellence. How does excluding all naysayers advance that cause? Are academicians so cocksure that their conviction that homosexual behavior is always wonderful and healthy that that view can be airtight and hermetically sealed, safe against any contrary inquiry?
It would be nice to be able to have the conversation at least, but speech codes and group think prohibit that from happening in the American university setting. At Augusta State and other schools, such thoughts are not even welcome at the table. And that is a tragedy. Perhaps Dan Quayle was right after all. “What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”