So Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee today signed a law that allows mental health counselors to refuse patients based on the therapist's religion or personal beliefs.
That means that a Christian counselor could refuse to see a Muslim, or an atheist, or a pastafarian. That means a Southern Baptist could refuse to see a Catholic. That means an anti-abortion person could refuse to treat a woman who's had an abortion. A staunch conservative could refuse to treat someone struggling with infidelity in their marriage. A racist can refuse to see anyone who's not white. That means a counselor could turn away a woman who's wearing too short a skirt, or holds down a job outside the home, or who uses birth control. That means a republican therapist could refuse to treat a democrat, or vice versa-- and both could refuse to treat a socialist. And of course, anybody can refuse to see an LGBT patient.
I am imagining someone who's hit a rough patch trying to find a counselor, looking through the yellow pages for a Jewish vegan feminist republican counselor who believes in attachment parenting. Presumably some folks, like the Green Party gay pro-gun Wiccan, would just have to drive to some other state.
Granted, when you're going in for counseling, you don't really want a counselor who's unsympathetic to your point of view. But shouldn't that be your choice?
One wonders how far Tennessee is willing to go. Will doctors someday get to treat only the sick and injured people they approve of? Will teachers be able to turn students away from their classroom for their faith, heritage or well, anything? Will it some day be legal to refuse any kind of service to someone just because he's the governor of a backwards state like Tennessee?