Friday, March 8, 2013

In Tennessee, Racist Students Can Refuse to Counsel Blacks

In a move of bi-partisan stupidity, the Tennessee Legislature is once again making itself out to be a mockery among people outside the fringe. What have they done now? Oh, just following the Michigan House's lead in attempting to pass a bill that would have far reaching consequences for graduate programs at every one of Tennessee's Public Universities. In a vote of 7-2, the Senate Education Committee passed a bill that goes before the full Senate on Monday, purporting to protect "religious freedom".

Senator Joey Hensley R-Hohenwald (of "Don't Say Gay fame when he was in the House last year) has partnered with Representative John DeBerry D-Memphis, to propose SB514
A public institution of higher education operating under chapter 8 or 9 of this title shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services. 
To no ones surprise, this piece of legislation's intent is to protect the "first amendment rights" of social work, psychology, and counseling students to not have to provide counseling services to LGBT people. In fact, that is what the questions by Republican Senators on the Senate Education Committee focused on (change therapy etc.). Yet the bill has the potential to go much farther in its impact. For example, what about the Christian individual who comes to a Jewish graduate student seeking assistance? Under this bill, because the Jewish student might have an issue with how the Christian individual depends upon Jesus to help him through a difficult issue, said student is within his legal right to refuse service. Or what about the Christian student who has a religious belief (based out of the curse of Ham) that African Americans are beneath him and not deserving of help? Under this bill, that student would not be allowed to be disciplined for the lack of service.

Welcome to Tennessee, where our State Legislature wants to ensure that not only do anti-gay students not have to counsel LGBT clients but that racist students can stay in their program and only deal with white people. Though the bill may have only meant to attack the LGBT community, it has a far greater, and negative, effect than Hensley or DeBerry could have imagined.
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