Written by Don Byrd
[UPDATE: The Arkansas Legislative Council voted to send the rule back to subcommittee for further consideration.]
The Arkansas State Board of Examiners apparently intended to avoid the controversy surrounding Tennessee’s new conscience rights law for counselors. That law that allows counselors and therapists to refuse treatment to patients where it would violate “sincerely held principles” including religious beliefs.
Instead, the state may be preparing to step into a similar firestorm now that the Board seeks to approve an “conscience clause” amendment to the American Counselors Association’s Code of Ethics. Rather than a law that allows refusal like Tennessee’s, Arkansas’ proposed rule would allow counselors to “refer” patients if treating them would violate the counselor’s religious beliefs. But opponents including the American Counselors Association don’t see it all that differently.
Little Rock’s KTHV reports on a statement from the ACA’s Richard Yelp. Here is an excerpt:
“The Arkansas rule would permit a counselor to refuse serving someone simply because the counselor’s own personal values conflict with that individual. While it is okay for a person to decide they do not wish to work with a counselor, our Code of Ethics is very clear that counselors do not get to reject a client in that same manner. Our Code of Ethics is unique compared to some professions in that it is designed to protect the consumer.
Counselors are not to let their own personal beliefs or values enter into a counseling relationship. Why? Because once that occurs, then it becomes a barrier to helping the client work through their issues.”
The rule is scheduled for a vote by the Board Friday morning.