Citing its deep disappointment, the American Counseling Association condemned Wednesday’s vote by the Tennessee House Health Committee approving House Bill 1840, legislation that would permit Licensed (and unlicensed) Professional Counselors to deny services and refer clients based on their own “strongly held religious beliefs.”
Tennessee, like many states, includes ACA’s Code of Ethics
in their state counselor licensure law. This bill, if signed into law, would allow professional counselors in Tennessee to disregard section A.11.b. of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics
and essentially permit discrimination.
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 ACA Code of Ethics
clearly states that professional counselors may not deny services to a client regardless of that person’s “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.” (Section C.5). Counselors put aside their own needs in order to understand those of their clients.
HB 1840 is an unprecedented attack on the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, something to which nearly 60,000 counselors abide. It is also an unwanted and unnecessary blow to the counseling profession and those who benefit from the services of a professional counselor.
ACA further states that allowing any health care provider to deny services based on their own “strongly held religious belief” would have a deleterious effect on countless people who seek mental and physical health services.
If HB 1840 is signed into law, its enactment could also jeopardize federal healthcare funding for Tennessee because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has clearly stated that no state has the authority to deny healthcare to anyone based on religion, race, sexual orientation, or other federally protected populations.
Because the ability to provide mental and physical health services to those living in Tennessee would become even more difficult should HB 1840 be adopted, the American Counseling Association will continue its opposition to the discrimination that this bill perpetuates.
We ask all ACA members in Tennessee, all mental health professionals in Tennessee, and all citizens of Tennessee to join us in this fight to ensure equality for all. If you live or work in the state of Tennessee, you can add your voice here. https://www.votervoice.net/COUNSELING/Campaigns/45503/Respond