Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed into law a bill that allows mental health professionals to refuse service to anyone based on their religious beliefs.
The American Counseling Association has announced that it may cancel its annual conference, now scheduled for April 2017, if the law is not repealed.
Governor Haslam will be the keynote speaker at a conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on May 17. Perhaps other participants will question him about this legislation. Perhaps Harvard President Drew Faust will chastise him in her introductory remarks for signing legislation that is unacceptable at Harvard or in Massachusetts or in most states. Apparently, other states have adopted similar laws, on the theory that a person with sincere religious beliefs should be legally permitted to refuse service to anyone who offends those beliefs.
Peter Greene commented on the law as permitting discrimination against any group that is different.
So Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee today signed a law that allows mental health counselors to refuse patients based on the therapist’s religion or personal beliefs.
That means that a Christian counselor could refuse to see a Muslim, or an atheist, or a pastafarian. That means a Southern Baptist could refuse to see a Catholic. That means an anti-abortion person could refuse to treat a woman who’s had an abortion. A staunch conservative could refuse to treat someone struggling with infidelity in their marriage. A racist can refuse to see anyone who’s not white. That means a counselor could turn away a woman who’s wearing too short a skirt, or holds down a job outside the home, or who uses birth control. That means a republican therapist could refuse to treat a democrat, or vice versa– and both could refuse to treat a socialist. And of course, anybody can refuse to see an LGBT patient.
I am imagining someone who’s hit a rough patch trying to find a counselor, looking through the yellow pages for a Jewish vegan feminist republican counselor who believes in attachment parenting. Presumably some folks, like the Green Party gay pro-gun Wiccan, would just have to drive to some other state.
One of our Tennessee readers added the following comment:
I wonder what the organizers at Harvard were thinking when they asked BIll Haslam to speak at this ‘illustrious’ summit. His accomplishments in scholarship & policy initiatives are, at best, underwhelming.
Gov.Haslam is the son of TN’s billionaire Jim (“Big Jim”) Haslam family who own Pilot Oil & Flying J Truckstops. His family control of the Republican Party bought him 3 elections – one as Mayor of Knoxville & 2 terms as Gov of TN. The family’s venture philanthropy buys the silence of critics in the local press & in higher education.
The Haslam family business is under FBI investigation for multiple counts of fraud
His legacy as governor is outsourcing public education, privatizing state workers & maintenance operations, privatizing our beautiful state parks, privatizing Dept of Children’s Services, cutting capital gains taxes, cutting the inheritance tax, passing a constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax, assuring TN remains the state with the highest number of workers earning minimum wage or below, and no healthcare for the poor.
He gave Tennesseans Kevin Huffman, Candice McQueen, and in a Dept of Ed staffed with TFA. Arne Duncan visited TN regularly to brag on our “progress” in edu-reform.
Thanks to Haslam, Tennesseans can carry guns on campus & in schools, our state book is the bible, we have a state gun, and a new state logo, fracking on the Plateau, cabinet advisors from Americans for Prosperity, the Milton Friedman Foundation, and The Charter School Associations.