Tennessee governor signs bill to protect freedom of conscience

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

I like the state of Tennessee, it’s probably the best state in the union overall, but their governor is such a moderate squish. Or, at least that’s what I thought until story this happened.

Charisma News reports:

Wednesday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 1556, which provides for “freedom of conscience” protections for counselors and therapists, into law.

The bill had been blasted by the American Counseling Association, as well as a number of LGBT “rights” groups. But Haslam said in an official statement after signing SB 1556 into law that he felt it offered key protections that weren’t being reported by the media.

“Although Senate Bill 1556 has received attention for its perceived focus, my job is to look at the actual substance of the legislation,” he said. “After considerable thought and discussion with counselors both for and against the bill, I have decided to sign Senate Bill 1556.

“There are two key provisions of this legislation that addressed concerns I had about clients not receiving care. First, the bill clearly states that it ‘shall not apply to a counselor or therapist when an individual seeking or undergoing counseling is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others.’ Secondly, the bill requires that any counselor or therapist who feels they cannot serve a client due to the counselor’s sincerely held principles must coordinate a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy.

“The substance of this bill doesn’t address a group, issue or belief system. Rather, it allows counselors—just as we allow other professionals like doctors and lawyers—to refer a client to another counselor when the goals or behaviors would violate a sincerely held principle. I believe it is reasonable to allow these professionals to determine if and when an individual would be better served by another counselor better suited to meet his or her needs.”

The Family Research Council, the premier think tank for social conservatives, had this to say:

“Tennessee lawmakers are right in acting to protect the ability of therapists and counselors to continue serving in their helping profession in a manner that does not conflict with their religious beliefs.  America has a long and storied history of respecting Americans’ freedom to believe and actually live their lives according to those beliefs.  It was this tolerance and understanding that led the first Congress and the American people to enshrine religious freedom in our Constitution.

“Senate Bill 1556 is an important first step in preserving this fundamental freedom for those who do not agree with the Left’s radical ideology. Tennessee joins North Carolina and Mississippi in the growing list of states refusing to criminalize people whose beliefs about sexuality and marriage are at odds with President Obama’s extreme political and social agenda.

“The response from the Left to this modest bill once again reveals the absolute intolerance of those seeking to redefine human relationships and sexuality.  It is clear that their goal is not access to services, it’s forcing all Americans to accept their system of beliefs or face government imposed penalties. They believe that a therapist or counselor who can’t in good conscience violate their deeply held beliefs should not be allowed to continue to serve. They believe that counseling students like Julea Ward should be forced to violate their conscience or be blocked from practicing.

“Many therapists and counselors are motivated to serve by sincerely held religious beliefs, they and everyone else are entitled to First Amendment protections,” concluded Perkins.

There was a separate press release by the FRC regarding the case of Julea Ward, in case you want to double-check the details about what universities due to Christian students when laws like this one are not in place.

Like I said, I am really surprised at Governor Bill Haslam – he has a reputation as a social moderate, fiscal conservative. It will be interesting to see how the fascists on the secular left respond to this. Tennessee does not have as many big corporations as Georgia or North Carolina do, which makes them a safer state to live in if you value your religious liberty. They might just let this one go.

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