Tag Archives: beliefs

AG Issues Opinion on Vanderbilt Police Force Bill

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state’s attorney general has raised constitutional concerns over an effort to strip Vanderbilt University of its police force because of a nondiscrimination policy for student groups.
Attorney General Bob Cooper said in an opinion released Thursday that he sees no legal problems with requiring public colleges and universities to bar such policies. But he said it would be problematic to impose a possibly “unconstitutional condition” on a private institution.
“The General Assembly cannot assert … through an unrelated requirement that a private university abandon its right of free association,” Cooper said in the opinion.
Republican Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon requested the opinion on his bill seeking to curtail police activity at the school if it doesn’t abandon its nondiscrimination policy among student groups.
Pody said he was disappointed by the legal opinion, but said he was still studying the analysis to see what his next steps should be.
“We could amend the bill, keep running it this way or finding a different course of action,” he said.
The Vanderbilt policy prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, genetic information or sexual orientation. To be sanctioned by the university, student groups must open membership to all students and allow all members in good standing to seek leadership posts.
Christian groups have protested the policy, saying it forces them to allow nonbelievers and gay students to join. Vanderbilt officials say about 15 student groups have refused to comply with the policy and more than 480 groups have accepted it.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam last year vetoed a more general bill seeking to ban college nondiscrimination policies because it sought to control the policies of private schools like Vanderbilt. The governor told reporters earlier in the week that he wasn’t more enamored about the renewed effort.
“I had problems with last year’s, and I’m not so certain that this isn’t just kind of a way to go around the corner and do the exact same thing,” Haslam said. “I also have questions whether any remedy that involves taking away a protective force is a good remedy.

Note: The full opinion is HERE.

Senate Approves Bill on Student Psychologists Counseling & Religion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Senate has approved legislation that would protect student counselors at public higher education institutions who withhold their services because of religious beliefs.
The measure passed Thursday 22-4. Republican Sen. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald sponsored the bill.
The legislation targets students in counseling, social work or psychology programs.
Hensley says he proposed the measure after a student at a Tennessee college was required to counsel someone who didn’t agree with the counselor’s “moral belief.”
The proposal protects a counselor from disenrollment, and it allows the client to be referred to another counselor.
Hedy Weinberg is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. She says the legislation is discriminatory and undermines the ability of universities to train counselors in line with the mandates of their future profession.

Bill Lets Counselors Reject Clients Based on Religious Beliefs

Legislation declaring that student counselors can reject clients with religious beliefs differing from their own is advancing over the objections of psychology professors who say the bill is counter to the profession’s ethical code and could threaten academic accreditation.
The bill (SB514) is similar to a Michigan law enacted last year after courts upheld the dismissal of Julea Ward from an Eastern Michigan University counseling program when, based on her Christian beliefs, she refused to counsel a homosexual student.
The bill is pushed by the Family Action Council of Tennessee, a Christian activist organization headed by David Fowler, a former state senator from Signal Mountain.
The measure declares that public colleges and universities “shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.”
Dr. Brent Mallinckrodt, a professor in the University of Tennessee’s psychology program, was joined by four other past or present academicians in urging defeat of the measure in testimony before the Senate Education Committee.

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