UPDATE ON THIS BILL: On April 11, 2016, the Tennessee legislature passed this bill to legalize discrimination against the mentally ill on the basis of “sincerely held beliefs.” It is now awaiting the signature of Governor Bill Haslam. You can read all about it here:
OUR EARLIER STORY: Sometimes a person just wants to go out to dinner and not be troubled by the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. That was my hope when I sat down with my newspaper at a Shoney’s Family Restaurant this evening. Much to my dismay, the newspaper contained one article and a letter to the editor about the newly hatched national strategy of the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals to use their religious freedom rights as a tool to deny other Americans their legitimate rights and freedoms. Both items were focused on a proposed law that is now under consideration by the state legislature in Tennessee. According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel (AP), the proposed law “would allow counselors in Tennessee to refuse to treat patients on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.” Now what does that mean? Basically, it means any practicing psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or psychological social worker in Tennessee would be given the legal right to refuse treatment to a patient if they deem the patient to be an objectionable sinner of some sort or a violator of some religion-based moral code or doctrine they follow. In other words, if you are about to commit suicide and you drink a glass of Gallo wine with your dinner, then your fundie therapist can toss your wine-sinning butt the rubber biscuit—and you go hungry with a bullet in your head baw-baw-baw!!!
The newspaper does not have the article posted on their website, but here is the link to the letter to the editor:
According to the newspaper article, “opponents say the proposal would allow therapists to turn away people in crisis because they are gay, transgender, or practicing a different religion.” I can just hear it now: “I am so sorry. I am a devout Southern Baptist clinical psychologist, and I cannot treat you because you are a Seventh-Day Adventist cult member.” Well, she at least got the “I am so sorry” part right.
The American Counseling Association (ACA) officially opposes this bill and is actively working against it. The ACA “has called this bill an unprecedented attack on its profession.” Art Terrazas at the ACA says “people are looking to counselors as health care providers, and the government shouldn’t step in between a health care provider and a patient. It’s just wrong.”
Bills like this have come up in other state legislatures, but they have all been killed. The Tennessee Senate has already voted on this bill and passed it, making it the first state governmental body in the United States to do so on such a bill. People who are watching this bill say Tennessee has a good chance of being the first state to enact a bill like this into law. If this effort succeeds in Tennessee, it may inspire other states, even those that have previously rejected such bills, to pass their own bills. You folks are no doubt familiar with the old term “model bill.”
When I was growing up, my Christian mother would often tell me that some things in this world are just plain low-down. I could go into a massive screed about this proposed law and how Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are just plain low-down for pushing heartless legislation like this, but I will not. I think the bill itself and the letter to the editor pretty much say it all on their own.