Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Secular Institutions Lead the Charge against Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America reads:

• Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

However, the institutions that should be most concerned about defending our freedom of speech are flagrantly violating this right when that speech goes against their own religious dogmas:

• Jennifer Keeton was enrolled in the Counselor Education Program at Augusta State University (ASU), a Georgia state school, seeking to obtain her master’s degree in school counseling. After Keeton completed her first year in the program, ASU’s officials asked her to participate in a remediation plan addressing what the faculty perceived as deficiencies in her “ability to be a multiculturally competent counselor, particularly with regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (GLBTQ) populations.” ASU’s officials required Keeton’s consent to the remediation plan before Keeton could participate in the program’s clinical practicum, in which she would have to counsel students one-on-one. Rather than completing the remediation plan, Keeton filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that requiring her to complete the remediation plan violated her First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights. Along with her verified complaint, Keeton also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that would prevent ASU’s officials from dismissing her from the program if she did not complete the remediation plan.

• After holding an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied her motion for a preliminary injunction, and it is from this order that Keeton now appeals.

• Keeton claims that ASU’s officials violated her First Amendment free speech rights in three ways: by discriminating against her viewpoint; by retaliating against her for exercising her First Amendment rights; and finally by compelling her to express beliefs with which she disagrees. We address each specific claim in turn. http://www.alliancealert.org/2011/12/19/11th-circuit-issues-ruling-in-keeton-v-anderson-wiley-litigation/

Although our right to express our opinions, however unpopular they might be, is being threatened, in many circumstances, it prevails:

• An Alliance Defense Fund lawsuit has led to official recognition for a student-led Christian club at the Hicksville Union Free School District, which originally refused to recognize the club. In light of the district’s decision to change course and grant the club equal access to the rights, benefits, and privileges extended to all other non-curriculum student clubs, ADF attorneys filed a voluntary dismissal of the club’s federal lawsuit against the district Friday.

• In addition to granting recognition and equal access to the club, the district also adopted a resolution affirming its “continuing policy to comply with the Equal Access Act,” a federal law that prohibits government schools from discriminating against religious student clubs that wish to meet on campus during non-instructional time. http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/5247?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

The struggle to maintain our right to freely express our cherished faith can be very discouraging. However, we have heavenly resources:

• Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:3-6)

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