Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I was going to post something very controversial today...

I got started on it yesterday while writing my post about My Husband's Not Gay.  It was related to the subject in sort of an abstract way... in that it was about two Christian counseling students who got kicked out of school because they are Bible believers who feel homosexuality is a sin and refused to submit to "thought reform" programs their respective universities wanted to foist upon them.  For the record, I am myself trained in social work.  I don't agree that homosexuality is "sinful".  I agree with those who don't believe it's a choice but a state of being that can't be helped.  And I think it's unhealthy to try to ask homosexuals to change who they are or condemn them for making a sinful "choice".

At the same time, I think universities should be places where people can exchange and discuss most ideas freely without fear of being expelled.  Many religious people are against homosexuality, believing it to be fundamentally wrong.  I don't agree with them, but I also don't think they should necessarily be kicked out of graduate degree programs for voicing their opinions.  I wrote a whole lot about this... particularly about how these two women were expected to submit to "thought reform" or "remediation" programs to get them to "change their minds" about homosexuality.  I doubt such a program would work.  What would stop them from attending the program and just saying what the administrators wanted to hear?

It seemed kind of chilling to me, especially since at least one of the students confronted with a gay client did the ethical thing and referred him to someone else.  To my mind, that was the right thing to do.  She couldn't help him, so referring him was correct, even if some may argue she did it for her comfort rather than her client's.  I would argue that it was in the client's best interests to be referred, since the student would not be able to relate to his situation.  She didn't try to change or condemn him.  She simply referred him to someone better suited to help him.  I would expect any healthcare professional to do the same thing unless, of course, it was an emergency situation.

But then I thought about it and decided not to post what I wrote yesterday because I had a feeling it might invite too much controversy...  And I'm not feeling up to dealing with that right now.  I've had sore boobs for the past few days.  I don't usually get sore boobs, so I'm guessing my old reproductive system may be about to start changing.  Besides, the cases I'm writing of occurred in 2010.  Both students took their battles to court and I know at least one of them initially lost, but then went on to continue fighting for her cause and eventually won a $75,000 settlement from her university.

Many people would agree that the first judge and the university made the right decision, since the student flat out said she'd be unwilling or unable to work with homosexual clients, which rendered her "unable" to be a counselor.  On the other hand, one thing I learned on the very first day of my social work training is that social workers change environments to make them work.  So this counselor, due to her beliefs, can't work with homosexuals.  She can work in the religious sector among people who also believe that homosexuality is a sin.  In fact, she'd probably be welcomed there.  Many therapists choose to work with specific populations.  One of the students had said she wanted to work as a high school counselor.  Who's to say she couldn't change her mind or choose a path in a more appropriate direction?  My goals changed when I was a grad student.  Why couldn't hers?  

Another thing that I think a lot of people weren't getting is that these students very likely knew quite well how their attitudes would come across to fellow students and professors.  They could have just kept their mouths shut, gotten their degrees, and then gone on to practice in the counseling field.  Instead, they were honest.  For that, they were told they needed "thought reform" after which they would be required to show that their thinking had "changed".  I'm not one for being rigid about one's attitudes-- I've changed my mind about a lot of things as I've matured.  But it doesn't sit well with me to tell these women they need "thought reform".  It seems a little too much like "tolerance camp"...



Think about it...

Besides, in the United States, the Constitution protects a person's right to free speech and religious practice.  I don't agree with what these women believe and I use my right to free speech to speak against it.  But I also recognize that they, too, have the right to free speech.  If you are in a university, you should have the right to speak freely.  I daresay that a person who dares to speak out about homosexuality in a counseling program is quite brave.  I imagine things would get tense very quickly.

Many counselors are politically liberal.  That's not a bad thing.  However, I think there's room for conservative thinkers, too.  Human beings are a very diverse lot and I think it's a good thing to have representatives from all walks of life.  I, personally, don't agree with the two Christian former counseling students that homosexuality is sinful, but it hasn't been that long that people have started to accept it as a state of normal.  It takes time for people to change their attitudes and evolve.  I know that counselors and social workers preach about being accepting of others and their differences.  I know that they preach about "tolerance" and "self-determination".  It seems like that attitude should go both ways.  We shouldn't let political correctness run amok.  We shouldn't try to force people to have one viewpoint.    

Interestingly enough, I see that in 2012, the state of Michigan had a bill in the works to prevent universities from expelling students in similar situations.  Other states apparently have been working on similar laws.

Well... so much for my decision not to post something controversial.  I understand why people are/were outraged by this situation.  I also think that a lot of it is crowd think.  It's politically correct to be supportive of homosexuals.  I am certainly all for gay rights, but I am even more in favor of freedom of expression and conscience.  I may not like what someone believes or says, but I feel that they should have the right to express themselves.  Indeed, when people are allowed to express themselves freely, they may be providing valuable information about who they are.  The women involved in this controversy have outed themselves to the world.  It's a fair bet that even if they ever did get degrees in counseling, they'd have a lot of trouble finding employment.    

4 comments:

  1. i'd be interested in reading what you wrote, although I understand your decision not to publish it.

    I'm inclined to agree that if the students referred gays elsewhere, their beliefs are no danger to the gay population.

    i'm liberal, but regardless, i'd probably never find myslef in the situation in which the students found themselves because i don't have a lot of faith in academic integrity and would be inclined to choose the program that i thought best suited me. if i were they, i would have kept my beliefs to myself until i got through the program. i don't have a great deal of faith in any educational system. i think the best way through it is to say what you need to say to get through a program. tell 'em what they want to hear. That's what school is about.

    I respect the rights of others who are less jaded than I, nonetheless.

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    1. One thing I noticed was that many people were saying these women could go to private Christian universities to get their degrees. My response to that is that, yes, they could. But they are tax payers too and they are entitled to attend universities that get tax dollars.

      I remember when I was in school, reading about conservative students in other programs who had trouble with professors because their political views differed. Shit, Bill went to private American University and got into it with a prof who disagreed with Bill's opinions on Apartheid (this was in the 80s) and Bill got dinged for it.

      There are a lot of arrogant profs in ivory towers... and there are also a lot of wonderful profs who truly are open to teaching and learning. My feeling is that a university is one place where a person shouldn't feel subjected to a threat of "thought reform" indoctrination, even if I personally disagree with their beliefs.

      I ended up tossing what I wrote yesterday... though today's post is pretty much along the same lines. The writing yesterday was a bit more academic in nature, though, and went more into the women involved.

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    2. A degree in counseling or social work at many Christian universities might be looked upon skeptically by any but christian right-wing employers. (Then again, it might not, but I wouldn't take the chance.) Plus, as you said, the girls to whom you referred are tax-paying residents who are as entitled to be educated at a public university as is the next person. Furthermore, many of those Christian institutions are even pricier than a really good state-run university. Why should conservative Christians pay more for what is probably a lower-quality education? They have every right to be there, and it's probably good for the liberals among them to be exposed to differing viewpoints as long as the women are not outrightly hateful in expressing the views. sometimes we liberals a liberal only as long as we're among like liberals, which really doesn't speak well for us as a group.

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    3. I think it would depend on the place.... and the university, of course. Some religion affiliated schools are notably excellent and some states may have a higher tolerance for religion in the workplace than others do... Utah, Mississippi, and Alabama immediately come to mind. So does Texas.

      There are places like Bob Jones University, Liberty University, and Pensacola Christian College that aren't obscenely expensive, but they do sort of immediately tag you as a Christian, which in some circles could be detrimental. There's also the chance that these women chose these schools because they were convenient to where they happen to live.

      In any case, while I totally understand why some people were outraged by the students' anti-gay views, I still think that it's a mistake to try to force everyone in a degree program to have the same opinions. It seems to me that a lot of people were responding emotionally to these reports without thinking of the big picture. The truth is, a lot of people with discriminatory views get through degree programs and end up practicing. At least these ladies were honest. And by the accounts I read, they were also good students who were otherwise competent.

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