TN bill would authorize counselors to deny service based on religion

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 4:40 AM

S. state measures that homosexual rights activists have criticized as discriminating against the LGBT community. A vote by the state House of Representatives protects therapists and counselors from civil lawsuits and criminal action if they deny services to clients whose religious beliefs conflict with their own.

n">The TN House passed a bill on Wednesday allowing mental health counselors to refuse service to patients on religious grounds, the latest in a list of U. S. state measures that homosexual rights activists have criticized as discriminating against the LGBT community.

A vote by the state House of Representatives protects therapists and counselors from civil lawsuits and criminal action if they deny services to clients whose religious beliefs conflict with their own.

The bill passed by a 68-22 vote and sent to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature. The state Senate passed the bill earlier this year.

Supporters of the bill declare it protects the rights of counselors who object on religious grounds to the adopted code of ethics of the American Counseling Association. But opponents declare it's an attempt to deny service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, a assailable pop frequently in necessity of counseling services.

The House bill, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Dan Howell, is one of many that are being challenged by human rights organizations claiming the legislation is anti-LGBT.

Howell was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The TN Equality Project, which supports homosexual rights, condemned the House passage of the bill even though it doesn't specifically refer to the LGBT issue. The grouping called on the Gov to reject the legislation.

Haslam told Nashville Public Radio he's not decided whether to sign or reject the counseling legislation, but he was considering the impact it may have on the state and its citizens.

"They (state lawmakers) necessity to obviously always vote their conscience," he told the radio station. "One of the things, though, that we should be mindful of is, is there a broader impact?"

On Tuesday, PayPal Holdings Incorporated canceled plans to open a global operations middle in Charlotte, NC and invest $3.6 million in the area after the state passed a law requiring people to utilize bathrooms or locker rooms in schools and other public facilities that match the gender on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

TN is considering similar legislation related to school bathrooms, and civil rights groups are watching a MO measure seen as discriminatory. Latest week, the governors of GA and VA vetoed "religious liberty" bills.

MS Gov Phil Bryant on Tuesday signed a far-reaching law allowing people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and protecting other actions considered discriminatory by homosexual rights activists.

(Reporting by Justin Madden; Editing by David Gregorio)

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