This was originally published on Liberal America on April 1, 2016.
This is just horrible! Tennessee has proposed a bill that would allow therapists to turn away atheists, gay people, and any other “sinners” they don’t want to see. If this disgusting bill passes, your “pious” counsellor may kick you to the curb if your desired results conflict with their religious beliefs.
Are you having marital problems with your same-sex spouse? Are you having trouble telling your fundamentalist parents that you are an atheist? Are you suffering from gender dysphoria? Well, I guess Tennessee doesn’t care about your problems.
Naturally, they are claiming to protect the religious rights of therapists. The bill goes against the American Counselors’ Association’s Code of Ethics. It tells therapists not to refuse clients based on:
“…age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law.
The association sent an email out to mental health professionals on March 24,reminding counselors that:
“The needs of the client are always a top priority, according to universally taught principles in counselor education, rather than the personally held beliefs of the counselor. This tenet is a civic and professional responsibility for those who are professional counselors.”
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Dan Howell, a Fox News anchor turned Representative, couldn’t care less about this Code of Ethics. He is more concerned with legislating his religion into people’s affairs. This could open a whole can of worms. Could this bill allow Hippocratic Oath violations?
Can a Catholic nurse refuse to change a gay man’s bed pan? Could a born-again physician refuse to stitch up an atheist’s wounds? Therapists and doctors should not be able to turn away sick people just because they may hold different beliefs.