Refusing Patients On Religious Grounds

Governor Haslam just signed HB 1840, making it legal in Tennessee for mental health professionals to refuse treatment to patients based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.

I’ve been fighting against this bill since it was introduced in January, and to be honest, I never thought it was actually going to become law. Quite frankly, I thought the governor was better than this. He was savvy enough to veto that ridiculous bill making the Bible the official state book, but I guess he felt the need to throw a bone to all the ignorant wingnuts in the Tennessee legislature. It’s a real shame, because HB 1840 is a hateful piece of legislation that encourages discrimination, protects small-minded bigots, and erodes the ethics of my profession.

The sad irony is that none of us wanted this. Across the state, every professional association of psychologists, counselors, and therapists fought hard to defeat this bill, but a tiny group of suspiciously well-funded conservative Christians decided that they knew better than the people who actually do this for a living, and now we’ve all been dragged over to the wrong side of history. I still consider it an honor to call myself a therapist, but today I’m ashamed to call myself a Tennessean.

In light of that shame, I want to extend myself to anyone across the state who might read this. If you are struggling with issues of sexuality or spirituality and you feel like you can’t speak freely with your church or local counselor for fear that you might be refused treatment, please reach out to me. I will do everything I can to help you find the mental health resources you need, wherever you happen to be.

Nobody should ever have to worry that they might be refused mental health care for being open and honest about their sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious doubts, and any therapist who would use this disgusting law to put their own sanctimonious objections ahead of a patient’s well being doesn’t deserve to have a license.

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