Tennessee College Counseling Programs Under Fire from Fowler Bill

Students in the state’s counseling programs could refuse to see patients on the basis of their religious beliefs. The proposal passed its first test last night with little resistance, except from professional counselors.

The issue first came up in Michigan, when a counselor-in-training refused to see a patient who was gay because she views homosexuality as a lifestyle choice that goes against her religion. She was dismissed from the program.

One of the half dozen counselors pushing back is Leslie Robinson of the University of Memphis. She told lawmakers she is a Christian and that accepting people is just part of the job. She says,

“The point that I took on the role of psychologist, I gave up my free speech. My opinions don’t matter to my patients. They shouldn’t matter to my patients.”

Robinson also says accreditation could be at risk with such a rule.

The legislation comes from former state Senator David Fowler’s conservative Family Action Council. He says if the only way to become a counselor is to give up your First Amendment right, then – in his words - “we have a much bigger problem.”

The Senate Education Committee was sympathetic to his view. The two Democrats were the only no votes.

The full Senate could vote on the bill as early as next week.