A ‘Religious Right’ to Not Counsel Gays?

The band of Tennessee lawmakers infamous for the Don’t Say Gay bill have a new piece of legislation to champion, a Don’t Have to Counsel Gays bill.

The legislation would ban public universities from making psychology students counsel anyone the student deems to conflict with their “deeply held religious beliefs,” and prevents the university taking disciplinary action against said student.

The ban’s sponsor in the House is Democratic — you read that right — Representative John K. Deberry, Jr, a minister at Colemand Avenue Church of Christ. As the New Civil Rights Movement notes, Deberry has been an outspoken advocate of the Don’t Say Gay bill but is most infamous for his 2009 legislation to prohibit gay people from adopting. The counseling measure’s senate sponsor is Senator Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald.

However, neither Deberry or Hohenwald authored the bill. Conservative David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, drafted both versions of the bill with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, formally the Alliance Defense Fund, whose anti-gay agenda is well established.

The ADF represented a Michigan student named Julea Ward who was expelled from a master’s degree program at Eastern Michigan University for refusing to counsel gay clients or clients who were sexually involved with someone but weren’t married. Ward received a $75,000 settlement last year.

Another student, self-avowed devoted Christian Jennifer Keeton, did not succeed in her suit against Georgia’s Augusta State University over a similar situation where she refused to counsel gay kids because she couldn’t affirm their “choice of lifestyle.”

Naturally, the Republican legislators who have a longstanding animus toward the LGBT community are behind the bill. The legislation made it out of senate committee last week, despite leading health professionals saying that this could damage the counseling profession.

In fact, even the head of the counseling program at Lipscomb University, a Christian university, said that the bill is a bad idea because student counselors must treat a range of clients.

Reports The Tennessean:

“I want my students to be able to help anyone who walks in their door,” [said Jake Morris, director of the graduate program in counseling]. For example, if a student thinks divorce is sinful, that student still needs to know how to treat clients who have gone through a divorce.”

Students, Morris said, should be exposed to a wide range of clients while in training. That will help them become competent professionals.

“We are health care professionals,” he said. “We need to act like it.”

Senator Stacey Campfield, author of the infamous Don’t Say Gay bill, reportedly managed to turn discussion of the bill even more anti-gay by asking what the rules were surrounding counselors advocating reparative therapy:

“So if someone were to, say, come in and—I’m just going to throw an example out there—say they were a homosexual and a person did not believe that was a natural act and they suggested, say, change therapy? Would that be something you could allow a student to do?”

Other lawmakers appeared aghast that the medical profession didn’t allow for counselors to impose their own morality on those they were counseling, with Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) reportedly saying, “I would think that you should be up front and truthful and tell them if they are doing wrong and try to counsel them to do what’s right. That really disturbs me.”

The Don’t Have to Counsel Gays bill is not the only anti-gay legislation that Tennessee lawmakers are considering at the moment. The reintroduced Don’t Say Gay bill comes with a shiny new clause saying school counselors can out kids who identify as LGBT, and legislation to make it illegal for universities to hold religious clubs to the standards set out in (LGBT-inclusive) nondiscrimination policies has swiftly advanced.


Related Reading:

TN Puts Off Don’t Say Gay Bill, Favors Abstinence-Only Update

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Dead (For Now)

George Takei Takes on Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill (VIDEO)

Image credit: Thinkstock.


Kristen K.
Kristen K.5 years ago

I'm all for gay rights, but I also feel that sometimes anti-discrimination laws force some people (people I disagree with) to change their beliefs without any time to adjust. As much as I believe that gays should have every right to do what they want without discrimination, I believe bigots and homophobes should have the right to be that, too. As long as we're not stepping on each other's rights.

Jim N.
James N5 years ago

This like this, while I wouldn't support it, would be ok in a private university, but not a public one. But better yet, why can't we just love and respect others instead of hating and excluding them? Why can't we be big enough to do that? Is it really that hard? Do some people have to go through their whole lives being asshats to one another?

It just seems our tax money would be better spent if these politicians spent their time and energy doing things to improve the world instead of hating its inhabitants.

Joanne S.
Jo S5 years ago

Are you kidding me?

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

Another reason why I'm an anti-theist atheist.

Karen Howard
Karen H5 years ago

If these people don't want to counsel clients who don't follow their religious guidelines, they should post that information so potential clients can say, "Well, this guy can't help me."
As a psych student, I had to counsel a woman about divorce, abuse and abortion. I faced the challenge and made it through the session without divulging my beliefs on any of the issues. It was HER decision whether to leave an abusive ex-cop husband for her new boyfriend, and it was HER decision whether to have an abortion. My beliefs didn't enter into it at all.
I also had to counsel a young person on coming out as gay. When this student saw that I wasn't going to judge, it helped them see that not everybody was closed-minded and hateful.
If these students can't do that, then they're not going to be good counselors. They'll be more like preachers.

Carole L.
Carole L5 years ago

Mitch D
“Carole L- your logic is at best insane.... you have to be able to pinpoint the exact time that you chose to be gay? Can you say the same in regards to your sexual desire? Ridiculous and inane.”

you misread my post Mitch, which is okay, I sometimes do that myself. I was agreeing with David K as I have asked the same question to those who think it's a choice.

Barbara D
“Wow. Mixed feelings. Don't get me wrong; I'm a strong proponent of gay rights. But I don't think a person should be forced to counsel in a situation that s/he is morally or ethical opposed to. They do have rights also and there must be other counselors available. Besides, at best, it would be subjective counsel and, at worst, detrimental to the patient (or client if you will).”

well you see Barbara, a persons 'personal' views end where their job description begins. IE let's say a person goes to work at a meat-packing plant and refused to kill the animal because they are morally or ethical opposed to animal cruelty. How long do you suppose they would keep that job.

Carole L.
Carole L5 years ago

Beth S
“BTW, the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest Islamic organization in the world. There are a number of their people appointed to important jobs by and in this administration.”

Cuz FAUX Right Wing Propaganda Machine tells ya so.

Beth S
“If someone shows up at your door with a religious tract, you can turn them down, tell them you're not interested. You can take the literature and throw it in the garbage. They are offering you something, which might or might not be of use to you. Just like when I have J's Witnesses or others show up, including people that what to trim tree branches away from the roof and do yard work, or people that want to power-clean siding. This is not shoving down one's throat”

the difference between the religious groups & business folk showing up at the door is that when you tell the business folks, “no thank you.” they don't shove their literature at you and insist you take it, they go away and don't come back. The religious folks otoh, keep returning like a bad case of athletes foot and just as annoying. And the business folks are not pushing their personal beliefs on anyone or telling them they're going to hell if they don't keep up their yard, roofs, tree trimming etc.

Jane H.
Jane H5 years ago

I agree with the folks who say don't let someone who "disagrees" with homosexuality (meaning they don't like gay folks) counsel them. What a disaster that would be for the gay folks. If they don't think homosexuality is simply a natural thing, they should not counsel them.

David King
David King5 years ago

We all know that being gay isn’t a condition or disorder.

But yesterday, extremist Gov. Chris Christie said he just isn’t sure about signing a bill banning “gay conversion therapy” – widely denounced by experts as physically and psychologically harmful – for minors.

This after last year he vetoed marriage equality legislation that’s supported by 57% of New Jerseyans. Now he’s willing to risk the health of LGBT teens to pander to his right-wing base. It’s deplorable.

Christie is up for re-election this November.

Barbara D.
Past Member 5 years ago

Wow. Mixed feelings. Don't get me wrong; I'm a strong proponent of gay rights. But I don't think a person should be forced to counsel in a situation that s/he is morally or ethical opposed to. They do have rights also and there must be other counselors available. Besides, at best, it would be subjective counsel and, at worst, detrimental to the patient (or client if you will).