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Politics

Heated debate in the Tenn House over counseling bill

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  A bill that would allow therapists to refuse treatment to clients based on the therapist’s strongly held personal convictions advanced out of a house committee Wednesday.

If it becomes law, the measure would prevent the American Counseling Association from disciplining member therapists for refusing to treat a patient as a result of the therapist's personal convictions.

The bill is widely viewed as a reaction to last year’s Supreme Court decision permitting same sex marriage.

Committee member and Nashville Democrat John Ray Clemens opposed the bill. He insisted that the patient’s health should trump the counselor’s personal beliefs.

“The client comes first, not the beliefs of the counselor. Competency deals with whether they’re able to put their own beliefs aside in the best interests of that client.”

Conservative Christian activist David Fowler disagreed.

“It’s not about ‘I need to protect me.’ It’s that ‘I cannot help you if we have a fundamental difference of values by which we understand our world.’”

The ACA recently changed its ethics statement to say that therapists must treat every client even if the therapist holds personal views at odds with the patient’s world-view.