Tennessee governor signs religious counseling bill into law

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WATE) – Tennessee’s Republican governor says he has signed a bill that allows mental health counselors to refuse to treat patients based on the therapist’s religious or personal beliefs.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he signed the bill after talking to numerous counselors, including those who were in favor and those opposed.

“People see that this is really dangerous and that it sets a horrible precedent for mental health services here in Tennessee and frankly around the country,” said Patrick Grzanka, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Tennessee.

The American Counseling Association called the legislation an “unprecedented attack” on the counseling profession and said Tennessee was the only state to ever pass such a law.

Opponents say the legislation is part of a wave of bills around the nation that legalizes discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

Supporters say the bill protects the rights of therapists and allows them to refer patients to more appropriate counselors.

“What we don’t need is a government law telling people what they should do and what they should not do and what they think is best for the patient, that needs to be between a doctor and patient,” said State Senator Richard Briggs who voted

for the bill.

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