No counselor or therapist providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor or therapist; provided, that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy.The bill insulates counselors and therapists from civil liability and criminal prosecution. It also protects them from license suspension or revocation except when their refusal to treat involves an individual who is in imminent danger of harming himself or others. The bill now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, it is unclear whether Haslam will sign the bill or veto it. He has 10 days to decide.
An earlier narrower version of the bill protected therapists' sincerely held religious beliefs, but the bill as passed protects any "sincerely held principles." The American Counseling Association, which strongly opposes the bill, says:
HB 1840 is an unprecedented attack on the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics.... If HB 1840 is signed into law, its enactment could also jeopardize federal healthcare funding for Tennessee because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has clearly stated that no state has the authority to deny healthcare to anyone based on religion, race, sexual orientation, or other federally protected populations.