Once again we have another state advancing legislation to protect “Christians” only, under the pitiful excuse of “sincerely held” religious belief. This might have had some credibility if it wasn’t just Christians that receive the protection benefits.
As introduced, House Bill 1840 declares that no person providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist. The bill passed the state senate 27-5 in February.
The Tennessee Equality Project tells Local 8 News that House Bill 1840 regarding mental health counseling and House bill 2414 concerning student access to restrooms would endanger the state’s business, tourism, and convention industries.
According to Chris Sanders, Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project, “These bills represent not only a direct attack on the LGBT residents of Tennessee, but a direct threat to our state’s reputation as a place that is welcoming for business and tourism. We call on all Tennessee residents, businesses, and lawmakers who share our vision of a fair, hospitable, and welcoming state to reject these discriminatory bills as the wrong direction for our state.”
Representative Jason Zachary calls the Tennessee Equality Project’s claim, “baseless.” Representative Zachary tells Local 8 News the bill is aiming to reinforce the First Amendment by protecting the religious rights of counselors, allowing them to refer a patient elsewhere. He also expressed that the bill protects patients and helps them to get better care, not denying care.
The language of this “legislation” gives the illusion of protecting religious freedoms, but in all actuality it is just another attempt at legalized discrimination using only the Christian religion as complete justification. If anyone thinks this is going to protect counselors/therapists who happen to be Muslim, Indian, Hindu, Mormon, et cetera based on their religious beliefs, then they better think again.
I would also like to know exactly how this so called legislation is supposed to “protect” patients and get them superior care. All I can see it doing is denying patients care and any legal recourse against the religious bigot hiding behind Christianity.
The bill also contravenes section C.5 of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, which holds that professional counselors may not:
“condone or engage in discrimination against prospective or current clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants 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.”
Even the American Counseling Association calls it an assault upon its Code of Ethics! I guess as long as Republicans can use Christianity to hide behind, anti discrimination laws and guidelines don’t mean a damn thing to them.
It also doesn’t occur to them that such discriminatory laws can have a negative financial impact upon the state with businesses and conventions cancelling plans in Tennessee, not to mention the tourism angles. Just look how Georgia’s governor caved as soon as the threats of lucrative business interests pulling out and cancelling contracts were issued.
However, such objections are hardly relevant to the bill’s sponsor, Representative Dan Howell , a former local FOX news anchor who is more concerned with legislating his religion into everyone else’s private affairs and making sure that no other religion gets to enjoy such protections.