Thanks to those who sent emails to your state legislators in support of House Bill 566, protecting the right of students in the counseling fields of study not to be forced to counsel a client contrary to their religious beliefs.
Your emails were effective in re-igniting a willingness by some legislators to re-consider their opposition to the bill. In fact, we were working with a good friend, Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), on an amendment that we thought would alleviate the concerns of some that protecting religious liberty would cause accrediting agencies not to accredit our counseling, social work, and psychology programs.
What we learned was that last year the American Counseling Association changed its ethics guidelines to make it unethical for a counselor to refer a client to someone else because the counselor’s religious beliefs were in conflict with the client’s goals!
This, in turn, meant that accreditation could be lost for counseling degrees because the proposed bill would be “unethical.” We didn’t think in the short time that we had to work on the amendment that we could overcome concerns about accreditation.
So, we decided to wait until next year and try to figure out how to solve this new problem or increase our support for the bill to such a degree that the accrediting agencies would back off. The decision was to live to fight another day rather than risk losing the bill. Under the House rules, if legislation is defeated in one session (this year), it cannot be brought back in the next one (next year).
Please understand the practical realities of not being able to pass the bill because of accreditation concerns: The state will no longer run its own universities but will simply have become an agency for passing state tax dollars over to unelected, unaccountable accrediting agencies.