Thinking Christian

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Disgusta State University to Professor: Change Your Beliefs or Get Out!

Posted on Jul 23, 2010 by Tom Gilson

Based on events alleged to have taken place at Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia.

DISGUSTA, Ga. — Attorneys with the National Uncivil Liberties League (NULL) filed suit against Disgusta State University Wednesday on behalf of a counseling professor told that her beliefs are unethical and incompatible with the prevailing views of the counseling profession. The professor, Dr. Julia Charrington, has been told to stop sharing her beliefs with others and that she must change her beliefs to remain on the counseling program’s faculty.

NULL senior attorneys underlined the seriousness of the situation: “Our dearest American liberties are at risk if we won’t let professors impose their anti-religiousness and pro-homosexuality on students against their will.”

Disgusta State ordered Charrington to undergo a re-education plan, in which she must attend “diversity sensitivity training,” complete additional remedial reading, and write papers to describe their impact on her beliefs. If she does not change her beliefs or agree to the plan, the university says it will remove her from the Counselor Education faculty.

Other professors learned of Charrington’s views on religion and homosexual conduct, specifically that:

  • Homosexuality is an unrestricted good
  • Freedom of sexuality trumps freedom of religion
  • Sexual behavior is by no means a matter of accountable choice
  • Persons are not born male or female; they become that way by of social conditioning; and especially
  • Persons who disagree, especially those who disagree for religious reasons, must not be allowed to enter the counseling profession.

“A public university professor shouldn’t be threatened with termination just for insisting that students drop all their moral values and religious beliefs, but that’s exactly what’s happening here. Simply put, the university is imposing thought reform,” said NULL, through a spokesman-woman-person-whose-gender-had-not-been-quite-socially-settled-yet. “Allowing students to hold their own religious beliefs should not be a precondition for employment at a public university. This type of zero-tolerance policy is in place at far too many universities, and it must stop.”

The re-education plan assails Charrington’s beliefs as inconsistent with the counseling profession and expresses suspicion over her  “ability to demonstrate multicultural competence in counseling, particularly with regard to working with non-gay, non-lesbian, non-bisexual, non-transgender, and non-queer/questioning (nGnLnBnTnQ) populations, as well as religious populations.” The plan requires her to take steps to change her beliefs through additional assignments and additional “diversity sensitivity training.” It also orders her to “work to increase exposure and interactions with non-gay populations. One such activity could be attending the Non-Gay Pride Parade in Disgusta.”

In her defense, Charrington offered the example of Augusta State University, also in Georgia, where—allegedly—her beliefs are not only tolerated but actually required. “If what I’ve been hearing is true, Augusta State has a grand tradition of believing what I believe, and even requiring students to believe the same,” she said. “It sounds to me like they’ve set the standard for barring students’ freedom of religion. If it’s true they can do that, then it’s manifestly unfair for Disgusta State not to let me insist that all students here think only the things I say they must think!”

In case you missed it: yes, if reports linked here are true, there is what appears to be a real story behind this satire. Jennifer Keeton’s alleged experience is too similar and yet quite the opposite of the fictional Dr. Charrington’s.

Also at First Things: Evangel

7 Responses to “ Disgusta State University to Professor: Change Your Beliefs or Get Out! ”

  1. JW says:

    Tom,

    While I get the point of this satire, the ideology you ascribe to DSU is a flaming straw man. I went to college at Princeton University, which has a thriving LGBT presence and activism, but they never tried to shut down legitimate disagreement or discussion. And they would certainly never argue in the way you suggest:

    “Our dearest American liberties are at risk if we won’t let professors impose their anti-religiousness and pro-homosexuality on students against their will.”

    Just about every word in this statement is tendentious and uncharitable. Try to walk a mile in LGBT activists’ shoes: for centuries they have been treated as less than human, the subject of hate crimes, vilification and marginalization. Now in today’s pluralistic culture (here I only mean acknowledgment that there are many ways of living and thinking competing for acceptance, not that all are equally valid or some other nonsense) they have a chance to be heard and to present the case that their lifestyle is just as valid and ‘normal’ as that of heterosexuals. Whether they make their case successfully or not, they have the right to be heard, both in the classroom and in the public square, just as evangelicals have the right to present their case for the existence of God and the normativeness of monogamous heterosexuality.

    And the suggestion that professors ‘impose’ views like anti-religiousness and pro-homosexuality ‘against the students’ will’ is patently ludicrous. I took a course on religious ethics at Princeton (taught by a Christian theologian, no less) which included readings on sexuality from both sides of the isle, as it were, from both traditional and queer moralists. In class we discussed the arguments pro and con, making sure that we understood the arguments and evidence presented by each side, and were allowed to make up our own minds. Of course I can’t generalize to other academic contexts but I never got the impression, even from the atheist philosophers and scientists, that they were trying to impose their views on me.

    Newsflash: in academia we argue and disagree! We present our opinions and beliefs and dissect them, no holds barred. Students should expect to be exposed to a diversity of viewpoints and think critically about them. Your description of the ideology of DSU suggests attempts at indoctrination, which I have never encountered in a college setting. Does not this tendentiousness rather suggest that some Christians are afraid that, if students with traditional moral views are exposed to alternative viewpoints, they might come to regard them as more persuasive? If so, that does not bode well for the traditional case.

    Ditto for the bulletpoint ideology you present:

    “Homosexuality is an unrestricted good”

    I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, and I have never heard any LGBT advocate argue this way. Homosexuality is seen in their view merely as non-deviant, that is, not inherently corrupt, disgusting, or perverse. That is a far cry from describing it as an ‘unrestricted good’.

    “Freedom of sexuality trumps freedom of religion”

    Again, I have never heard LGBT advocates reason this way. Freedom of sexual expression and freedom of religion are complementary, both stemming from the basic rights of the citizen to life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness. In the public square LGBT advocates have the right to argue that their sexual orientation is non-perverse, while traditional moralists have the right to argue that it is, but neither group has the right to stifle expression of the other’s point of view. In my experience it is usually traditional moralists who are trying, through political coercion, to silence the voice of LBGT activists, not the other way around.

    “Sexual behavior is by no means a matter of accountable choice”

    Simply ridiculous. The LGBT advocates I have read all stress the importance of accountability and responsibility in sexual relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual. This seems like an attempt to establish an inherent link between homosexuality and promiscuity, to establish guilt by association. It’s a cheap tactic. There are loving, committed, long-term homosexual relationships just as there are promiscuous, frivolous heterosexual relationships. The one does not automatically exclude (or conversely imply) the other.

    “Persons are born male or female; they become that way by of social conditioning”

    It seems you made some mistakes in this sentence. I assume you meant that ‘persons are not born male or female; they become that way by social conditioning’. If so, while there is a definite biological basis for sexuality (contra some radical postmodern theorists), culture also plays a significant, such that ideas of masculinity and femininity vary widely across cultures. Don’t just dismiss social conditioning before examining the evidence for it.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    JW,

    You have argued very persuasively that this hasn’t happened in your experience, and that it doesn’t happen commonly.

    What you apparently did not do, however, was click the links. I’m satirizing one event that actually did take place at one university, if the reports in those links are accurate. Anti-religious pro-homosexuality was imposed on the student. The evangelical student is not being given a chance to present her case. I agree, “Students should expect to be exposed to a diversity of viewpoints and think critically about them,” but that seems not to have happened for Jennifer Keeton (again, based on the stories as reported). She was censured for believing that sexual behavior is an accountable choice.

    That this happens rarely is quite believable. That it never happens seems to be false.

    Again, I’m not satirizing every state university. Just the situation as it is reported in the linked articles.

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    But thank you for the correction on that one line. I’ll edit it in the blog post.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    Also—suppose this actually happened at Augusta, and never happened anywhere else. The one incident alone would still merit all the outrage and ridicule I’ve tried to evoke here, and more.

  5. Crude says:

    Since this seems largely like an anecdote-fest, let me just add in my own anecdotes here, given my experience at a university.

    I’ve seen, first-hand in my university experience, explicit attempts to silence groups that oppose attempts to rationalize homosexuality. Some of what took place: University attempts to keep an organization dedicated to that view from forming, on the grounds that it was discriminatory. Warnings that refusal to allow members from an obviously competing group (The campus versus of LGBSA) from joining this group would be discriminatory and lead to action against the club and possibly the students (said group literally co-opted this opposing group, and elected a LGBSA member as leader. It pretty much dissolved thereafter.) Topped off with student radio being allowed to suggest on air that the reason the founder of the group in question started it was because he was a repressed homosexual. That one never gets old.

    So I find the claim that it’s “patently ludicrous” that things like this take place to be patently ludicrous.

    Here’s another newsflash! There is a difference between an idealized rendition of an organization, occupation, etc, and the actual good. Yes, many universities pay much lip service to the idea that theirs is a place where all sides are to be heard, with debate and discussion encouraged. That can be, and many times is, mere lip service. Indeed, you can “present both sides” while stacking the deck against one view or another. Anyone who thinks this can’t be done, or better yet, is not done in various contexts, is either naive or dishonest.

    Either way, count my experience as largely opposite JW’s.

    Oh, and just to add some flame to the fire, I refer to this old attempted petition for the American Philosophical Association. I would point out that it is implicit, and to a degree explicit, that this very petition suggests that there is, for many academics, no “discussion” to be had on the subject of the morality or lack thereof of homosexual acts. For them, the issue is quite closed – if your private university takes a contrary position on the subject, you are discriminatory in every negative sense of the word, and should be shunned. Fail to agree, and you are yourself discriminatory – again, in every negative sense of the word, and should be shamed.

    Now, you can whip around and say “Well, by having a code of moral and ethical conduct that speaks against engaging in homosexual acts, the subject is closed for those guys as well!” While I’d point out the difference between a homosexual inclination and specific act, I’d in part agree. But that would highlight some of what is implied by Tom’s parody: That many academics don’t view these, and many other subjects, as topics where two sides can argue their differences, and we’ll just see who walks away with what opinion. Instead the game is implementing one view over another, striving to pass on that view in particular to students, and subverting the views of those who disagree.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    See also Collin Brendemuehl’s take on this. Over at the Evangel blog (comment #2) he asked me, “Why so polite?” I gave him my answer there (I was seeking primarily to show how hypocritical this action was) but I agree with him: this is an outrage. I’m angry about it. Brendemuehl compares it to Communist “re-education” programs. Those of us who are old enough can remember being outraged at the Communists doing that. We’re not to Stalin’s level of imposing starvation, death, and and prison camps on people like Jennifer Keeton. This “re-education” differs in degree (Collin overstated it in that sense). Based on the reports we’ve seen so far, however, it does not differ in kind.

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