Tag Archives: counselors

A Question of Professionalism

First there were the laws that allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for legal medications that violated their religious beliefs.

Now, Tennessee and several other states are considering legislation that would protect social workers and mental health professionals who turn away suicidal clients when those clients’ “life styles” offend the provider’s religious beliefs. If the suffering client is gay, or divorced, or otherwise not up to the “moral standards” prescribed by the counselor’s religion, the proposed law protects the “professional” who refuses help against liability for the results of that refusal.

I’d be tempted to ask the sponsor of this measure if he really believes that Jesus would approve of turning away people in pain–especially those at risk of suicide– but that’s beside the point. The personal religious beliefs of a professional are also beside the point. We expect a “pro life” policeman to arrest arsonists, even if those arsonists are burning down an abortion clinic. We expect public school teachers to instruct all the children in their classrooms whether or not they approve of a particular child’s gay parents. Most of us would be appalled if an emergency room doctor refused to treat a badly beaten prostitute because his religion taught that she “had it coming.”

Professionalism requires adherence to the norms of that profession. People who are unwilling to accept those norms and act accordingly need to find different careers.