An anti-gay Christian minister who is also a Tennessee state lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would allow mental health counseling students in graduate school to refuse to treat gay people or anyone else based on a proposed “religious exemption.” Representative John J. Deberry, Jr., 62, a minister at the Coleman Avenue Church of Christ, is best-known outside Tennessee for his 2009 bill that prohibited gay people from adopting, but also has spoken quite vociferously about Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as the video below shows.
“The measure would bar schools from disciplining students if they decline to treat clients with ‘goals, outcomes or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student,’” The Tennessean reports:
It was inspired by a case in Michigan involving a Christian student named Julea Ward. She was expelled from a master’s degree program at Eastern Michigan University for refusing to counsel gay clients or clients who were sexually active but not married.
She sued the school with help from Alliance Defending Freedom, a Phoenix-based Christian legal group. Ward eventually received a $75,000 settlement.
The bill was drafted by conservative activist David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, with help from Ward’s lawyers. A similar bill was signed into law in Arizona. Lawmakers in Michigan and Georgia have proposed similar bills.
The American Counseling Association, a national association for counselors, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of Eastern Michigan University. That brief claimed students should not be allowed to use religion to turn down clients.
Fowler said that claim violates the religious freedom of students.
“The legal arguments made by the accrediting bodies against Ms. Ward in her case made it clear that the trend in at least psychology is against religious liberty and in favor of government-mandated speech,” he said in an email.
Rep. Deberry is a Democrat in the Tennessee House. There’s also a Senate version, sponsored by Republican Joey Hensley, a Pentecostal.
The concept of so-called “religious liberty” as it’s being (mis)used is faulty. Religion is not a door to hide and cower behind, but rather, it’s suppose to be a portal to learn and grow from. If anti-gay people want a reason to not help gay people, they should have the personal courage to do so, and accept the consequences.
What would Jesus would do?
Below, Deberry argues for the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
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