A Message for Psychological and Marriage Therapists in Tennessee

I just learned that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has signed the bill that allows clinical psychologists and other psychological therapists in Tennessee to discriminate against people in Tennessee on the basis of their “sincerely held principles.” This bill was supposedly designed to protect Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals from having to counsel LGBTQ patients, particularly married LGBTQ patients who need marriage counseling. In fact, American Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are angry at the U.S. Supreme Court for legalizing gay marriage last summer, and this new law (along with numerous other proposed and passed laws) is designed to take out angry vengeance on the LGBTQ community in Tennessee.

Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in Tennessee are going to have to understand that the word of the Lord is not the only sword in this world that has two edges. Laws designed to persecute a small minority of hurting people have two edges as well—and all two-edged swords cut both ways. The clock on this new two-edged sword created by Governor Haslam starts ticking right now as far as I am concerned.

People sometimes ask me for a referral to a good psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, LCSW psychotherapist, or marriage therapist in Tennessee. From this moment forward, I shall not be referring any person whatsoever to the counseling firms in my area that back and plan to take advantage of this discriminatory bill that persecutes LGBTQ people. I shall also schedule a meeting with the head pastor of my church to kindly and respectfully ask him to avoid referring members of my church to all such counseling firms in my geographic area. In addition, I shall be writing to my bishop and regional denominational conference leader in Tennessee to kindly ask them to direct their church pastors in the region to also avoid referring members of my denomination to these firms.

I am a long-standing member of my Christian denomination, and I have my own religious freedom rights, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to make such a request because this new bill violates the admonition of Jesus to “love our neighbors as ourselves” (Mark 12:30-31).  The LGBTQ people who live among us are our neighbors—just as Jesus makes clear in the New Testament. Christians do not persecute their neighbors—and especially not minority group neighbors who are hurting. This is a position that both I and my Christian denomination have always supported as a matter of both faith and action.

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