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Psychology Professor Who Explored Homophobia With Students Cleared Of First Amendment Violation

Dr. Linda Brunton, a psychology professor at Columbia State Community College in Tennessee, came under fire earlier this year over an extra credit assignment she offered in her General Psychology 1030 class.

The assignment, which was voluntary, asked students to wear rainbow ribbons and make statements in support of gay rights, then write a paper detailing any discrimination they faced for their perceived support or orientation.

Sounds like an interesting assignment, right?

Well, in June, the Alliance Defending Freedom sent the college’s President Janet Smith a letter stating that Brunton had violated students’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to “express support for the homosexual community.”

The letter alleged that multiple students complained to the organization about the extra credit assignment, which took place during the spring 2012 semester. The students claimed Brunton “brushed off” their concerns when they said religious convictions prohibited them from showing support for “unnatural and immoral” homosexual behavior, and that Brunton “gave them grades of zero” on their papers as a result.

Alliance Defending Freedom identifies itself as “a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” This is the same organization who once employed Lisa Biron, the lawyer found guilty of producing child porn. It is also the organization currently working with Patricia King of Extreme Prophetic Ministries on criminalizing sodomy in Belize.

Columbia State Community College conducted an internal investigation into the matter. The investigation was conducted by Randy Elston, director of the Columbia State Human Resources Department, whose findings were submitted to the college in a document dated August 26.

Elston concluded that there was no evidence to support claims Brunton had “brushed off” students’ religious concerns, and that only four of the 43 students who participated in the extra credit assignment received a grade of zero. Two of the four “who allegedly received a zero because of their religious beliefs” turned in assignments that they knew were not written according to instructions. Furthermore, one of those two still received an “A” in the class, despite getting a zero on that particular paper.

On Thursday, the school announced they did not believe Brunton had infringed upon students’ rights, releasing a statement that read:

A thorough investigation of the allegations of first amendment issues and discrimination by Dr. Brunton in regard to her psychology assignment has been completed. The college is satisfied with the investigation which yielded that the ribbon assignment was not mandatory, that the student’s first amendment rights were not infringed, and that there was no evidence of discrimination based on religious beliefs. Issues of clarity of the assignment, expectation, and advocacy of subject matter that is controversial but appropriate for the course content were identified as areas of consideration in lesson plan development and delivery.

Brunton is expected to return to campus for the fall 2013 semester, and is scheduled to teach five classes.

The moral of the story: The Alliance Defending Freedom, once again, only succeeded in making themselves look like asses whilst wasting everyone’s time.

By:           Graham Gremore
On:           Sep 3, 2013
Tagged: , ,
  • 12 Comments
    • Caliban
      Caliban

      It’s a completely valid experiment. She isn’t telling them what to THINK, just to adopt signifiers of a political POV and record how people react to them based upon that. They might actually learn something from it. She could have asked them to wear a T-shirt that identified them as atheists or “pro-lifers” and gotten a similar result. Or ANY other stance. That wouldn’t mean they don’t have deeply held religious beliefs, just that they’re participating in an experiment about how someone else is perceived and treated. How wouldn’t it be instructive to learn how other people are treated?

      Sep 3, 2013 at 6:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 2eo
      2eo

      Absolutely a valid experiment.

      I read the calling trademarks of a terrorist militia in the christian mentalists, if this was an islamic group they’d be firebombed and attacked in the media, yet christian militants who murder millions can do a they please.

      Sep 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MikeE
      MikeE

      besides, if your “religion” stops you from doing the course work for a psych class, then maybe you shouldn’t be in college to start with?

      it’s not like they’re Jewish students at a pork-processing university!

      Sep 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RSun
      RSun

      It’s like in debate club where the “side” is chosen for you. Doesn’t mean you believe it or support it, but it is the assignment.

      Sep 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dwight
      Dwight

      Optional assignment asking them to role play, no big deal.

      My guess is that wasn’t having to pretend to espouse something they don’t support but that they didn’t want to have to acknowledge that others with viewpoints similar to theirs were actually behaving in a discriminatory manner.

      Sep 3, 2013 at 10:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike
      Mike

      I get so sick of those damn religious nuts. If you want to be religious, go to church.

      Sep 3, 2013 at 11:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • yaoming
      yaoming

      Maybe the investigation could have been avoided if she had allowed students to chose to project EITHER pro- OR anti-gay views and then compared the results.

      Sep 3, 2013 at 11:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dakotahgeo
      Dakotahgeo

      Making fools or asses of themselves seems to be a trademark of anti-GLBT groups and religious extremists! One would think that, after one or two legal lashes with the common-sense belt of knowledge, they would learn their lesson(s). Unfortunately such is not the case and they continue to embarrass themselves in public and private. Pray for these self-molesters, pity them!

      Sep 4, 2013 at 12:11 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DarkZephyr
      DarkZephyr

      God I am so over Christianity (but I still support and defend our Christian allies who are not like the bigots mentioned in the article).

      Sep 4, 2013 at 1:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lawerence
      Lawerence

      @DarkZephyr: these frauds are in no way Christians! They’re demonic soulless zombie Rethuglican sheeple! Their real mission is to turn people away from Jesus and from all the postings I see bashing Christ, wouldn’t you say their evil plot is working?

      Sep 4, 2013 at 8:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 2eo
      2eo

      @Lawerence: If these people have a genuine mission to turn people away from religion then I doff my cap to them for doing such amazing work.

      Also, they really, really are christian, you don’t get to decide just because they are something you don’t like, they are christians and the whole religion should be judged by their actions both what they do and in response.

      Sep 4, 2013 at 9:54 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scott Rose
      Scott Rose

      This happened at a state-supported community college, not at the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Gay Bashers, ergo the correct viewpoint to teach about sexuality, including homosexuality, is the scientific viewpoint (which proves that homosexuality is a universally occurring, normal human variant), not the “God hates fags!” religious viewpoint. Fuck the Alliance Defending so-called “Freedom.”

      Sep 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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