Ku Klux Klan to Rally for Christian Anti-Gay Student

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday October 6, 2010

A Christian student at a Georgia university who was ordered to learn more about gays has found new allies willing to stand up for her constitutional rights: the KKK.

Augusta State University student Jennifer Keeton was told that her beliefs about homosexuality are "unethical and incompatible with the prevailing views of the counseling profession" and directed to attend "diversity sensitivity training." Anti-gay Christian legal organization the Alliance Defense Fund took the university to court in a lawsuit on Keeton's behalf, saying that she was the victim of anti-Christian discrimination.

Keeton, 24, views homosexuality as a choice made by gay individuals, rather than as an innate characteristic. She also views physical intimacy between consenting adults of the same gender as sinful. Still, Keeton contends, her views would not impede her ability to approach gays as a professional counselor.

The mental health profession has long rejected the pathologization on gays and lesbians, and even some churches that are otherwise stalwartly anti-gay--such as the Catholic Church, which actively seeks to obstruct and roll back rights and protections for GLBT individuals and families--acknowledge that the scientific evidence is highly suggestive of homosexuality being an innate trait that is neither "chosen" nor, for the most part, "changeable."

But many conservative Protestant religious traditions view homosexuality as both chosen and changeable. So-called "ex-gay" organizations dedicated to "curing" gays through "reparative therapy" are closely affiliated with religious organizations, and often promise that a combination of prayer and therapy can "convert" gays into heterosexuals.

But sparks can fly where those beliefs come into conflict with accepted standards for mental health professionals.

"A public university student shouldn't be threatened with expulsion for being a Christian and refusing to publicly renounce her faith, but that's exactly what's happening here," declared David French, a lawyer with ADF. "Simply put, the university is imposing thought reform," added French.

"Abandoning one's own religious beliefs should not be a precondition at a public university for obtaining a degree," French continued. "This type of leftist zero-tolerance policy is in place at far too many universities, and it must stop." Added French, " Jennifer's only crime was to have the beliefs that she does."

Now the Ku Klux Klan has entered the fray on Keeton's behalf, reported local newspaper the Augusta Chronicle on Oct. 5.

"We're trying to protest the constitutional rights that they are trying to take away from her," said a grand dragon with the KKK, Bobby Spurlock. The KKK has been in contact with university officials about Keeton's case, Spurlock told the media, and plans a rally on her behalf for Oct. 23 across from the university. The Augusta Chronicle said that Keeton's KKK supporters were planning on attending the rally "in full dress."

"It's your constitutional right, so how could you tell someone you have to do something completely different?" Spurlock told the Chronicle. "She is no way whatsoever affiliated with us," Spurlock added. "She has not contacted us, but we were contacted by someone that is aware of her."

Lt. Scott Gay of the county sheriff's office told the media that law enforcement and the KKK had met to plan security for the rally. However, the sheriff's office was involved strictly on a professional basis. "We are not condoning it one way or another," Gay told the media.

Keeton's case invites heated debate, as well as critical analysis, from pundits. Right-wing sources characterize the remediation Keeton was instructed to undergo as a "reeducation plan." A July 27 posting at South Dakota Politics reads, "I gather that Ms. Keaton [sic] believes that 'male and female' are not social constructs but are fixed by nature. She believes that homosexuality is not "a state of being" but a lifestyle choice. I happen to agree with her about the one but not the other."

Adds the posting, "Should a person who believes that homosexuality is wrong be allowed to be a counselor, when some of her clients may be homosexual? That is not an unreasonable question." The posting then compared the case to a theoretical situation in which "a Palestinian immigrant who believes that Israel is an abomination" might raise the question of whether the Palestinian "be allowed to be a counselor when some of her clients may be Israeli immigrants or Jews sympathetic to Israel," before arriving at the conclusion that, "The only way to deal with this problem without infringing on the most basic freedoms is to focus solely on professional conduct."

However, "It looks like she is being corrected because she refuses to sign on to the party line," the posting said. "That is something else."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.