Tag Archives: counseling

Religious counseling law could lead to lawsuit

The national group that recently canceled a Nashville convention as a result of a new state law that allows counselors to deny service to clients is considering squaring off against Tennessee in court, reports The Tennessean.

“I’m not an attorney, but I will tell you that we will be looking at whether or not there is a possible legal action to take against the state given this law being enacted,” American Counseling Association CEO Richard Yep told The Tennessean this week.

Yep said any potential legal action against the state could even expand beyond the ACA.

“There could be a challenge from the federal government based on the fact that the state obviously does receive federal funds through Medicare. Whether or not the Department of Justice wants to get involved because of the denial of services, we will see,” he said.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against North Carolina, which enacted a law that bans transgender people from using bathrooms that don’t match with their sex at birth. The Justice Department’s civil rights office said the law violates civil rights.
The state also has sued the federal government in an effort to keep the controversial law.

…Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, who serves as chairman of the House Health Committee, which discussed the measure, brushed aside concerns that the state could face action from the federal government, saying, “I figured there could be legal action, but at the end of the day there is no refusal of service in this bill.”

Sexton said he worried about Yep misrepresenting the fact that the ACA was not consulted as the bill made its way through the legislative process. He pointed out that the ACA hired a lobbyist who met with lawmakers about the legislation.

In an interview with The Tennessean earlier this week, Yep said no one in the legislature or the governor’s office reached out to the ACA to ask for a clarification about the organization’s change to its code of ethics.

“At this point I don’t know what to think about the association as a whole,” Sexton said. “All this law does is allow a counselor to refer a patient to another counselor.”

Counseling group cancels TN conference to protest new law

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — By canceling its conference in Tennessee next year, the American Counseling Association wants to put other states on notice that new LGBT laws can carry consequences, the group’s leader said.

The cancellation announced Tuesday, had been hinted at after the Tennessee General Assembly passed a new law letting therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles. It’s aimed at preventing similar measures elsewhere.

“Our message to other states is don’t introduce bills that are essentially legalizing discrimination,” said Richard Yep, the organization’s CEO. “It is discriminating against those who are least able to fight back.”

The conference would have brought 3,500 to 4,000 people to Nashville, he said. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. estimates that it would have generated $2.5 million in direct visitor spending and $444,609 in tax revenue for the city and the state of Tennessee.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and tourist officials in the Music City have vocally opposed the legislation and warned of a possible backlash.
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Commentary & national reporting on signing of religious counseling bill

First, here’s the governor’s official comment as distributed to media by his communications office:

“Although Senate Bill 1556 has received attention for its perceived focus, my job is to look at the actual substance of the legislation. After considerable thought and discussion with counselors both for and against the bill, I have decided to sign Senate Bill 1556. There are two key provisions of this legislation that addressed concerns I had about clients not receiving care. First, the bill clearly states that it ‘shall not apply to a counselor or therapist when an individual seeking or undergoing counseling is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others.’ Secondly, the bill requires that any counselor or therapist who feels they cannot serve a client due to the counselor’s sincerely held principles must coordinate a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy,” Haslam said.

“The substance of this bill doesn’t address a group, issue or belief system. Rather, it allows counselors – just as we allow other professionals like doctors and lawyers – to refer a client to another counselor when the goals or behaviors would violate a sincerely held principle. I believe it is reasonable to allow these professionals to determine if and when an individual would be better served by another counselor better suited to meet his or her needs.”

The bill was signed by the speakers on April 13 and transmitted to the governor for action on April 15.

From Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini:
News release from TNDP:
Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini spoke out against the controversial “Counselor Bill” signed into law by the Governor this week. In a statement to the media she said:

“Governor Haslam has done a dangerous disservice to the people of Tennessee by signing this bill into law. Professional counselors have said that it violates their code of ethics by allowing clients to be treated differently and that it could be harmful to children and young adults in rural areas who already have limited access to licensed therapists. Let’s just call it what it is, an extremist Republican majority drunk with power and failing to stand up for the fair and equal treatment of all the people of Tennessee.”
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Haslam signs religious counseling bill into law

By Sheila Burke and Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Republican governor said Wednesday that he signed a bill into law that allows mental health counselors to refuse to treat patients based on the therapist’s religious or personal beliefs.

“As a professional I should have the right to decide if my clients end goals don’t match with my beliefs — I should have the right to say somebody else can better serve them,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “Lawyers can do that, doctors can do that. Why would we take this one class of professionals and say you can’t do that?”

The American Counseling Association called the legislation an “unprecedented attack” on the counseling profession and said Tennessee was the only state to ever pass such a law. Opponents say the legislation is part of a wave of bills around the nation that legalizes discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
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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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Campfield Bill: Don’t Teach Gay, Do Tell Parents

Sen. Stacey Campfield’s new version of legislation known as “don’t say gay” in past years allows counseling of students on homosexuality, but calls for notification of a youth’s parents when counseling occurs.
Campfield, R-Knoxville, has entitled the new bill, SB234, “Classroom Protection Act.” It generally prohibits in grades kindergarten through eight “classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction.”
Critics of similar past legislation have complained that teachers could be prohibited from answering questions or counseling troubled students if the topic involves homosexuality. The new bill explicitly excludes a teacher “answering in good faith” any questions related to the subject being taught and says school nurses, counselors, principals and assistant principals can counsel students.
But it also says, “Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.” The provision has been widely criticized on several blogs as potentially creating situation that could discourage troubled students from seeking counseling when dealing with sexual abuse, bullying or even contemplation of suicide.
Campfield said, however, “it’s ridiculous to say we should shield parents from that information” about homosexual activity, which can be dangerous because of AIDs and sexually-transmitted disease.
“I think it’s important that, if they’re doing something that’s potentially dangerous or life-threatening, that you should get parents involved,” he said.
The Senate approved an earlier version of “don’t say gay” in 2011, but the bill later died in the House and never became law. Campfield said the new version is “completely different” and “gets rid of some of the old perceptions” about the legislation.

Mental Health Counseling Offered to Storm Victims

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Mental Health (TDMH) has
received an extension on a $2.1 million grant from the Substance Abuse
and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to continue providing
mental health outreach, counseling, and educational services to
individuals impacted by the severe storms and historic flooding that
initially began in the spring of 2010. The grant, which was set to
conclude in June, will be extended until August 31, 2011.
The extension will allow the department to continue collaborative
efforts with five community mental health centers in Middle and West
Tennessee to provide basic mental health services in affected
communities including individual and group crisis counseling, public
education, community networking and support, and both adult and child
needs assessment and referral.

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