Neb. Catholic Group Pushes Rule Change Allowing Licensed Psychologists to Refuse Treatment for Gays
365 Gay reports today that a proposal currently under consideration in Nebraska could result in a rule change for the state's licensed psychologists, allowing them to refuse to treat or refer gay and lesbian patients if the patient's sexual orientation conflicts with the counselor's religious convictions. The "convictions of conscience" rule and the refuse-to-refer clause would also apply to licensed counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists. Jim Cunningham of the Nebraska Roman Catholic Conference believes that psychologists should have the right to refuse their services if a potential patient's lifestyle violates the psychologist's personal religious and moral beliefs.
Unless the "conscience rule" is established, Cunningham says that Catholic Charities in Omaha and Catholic Social Services in Lincoln, both of which provide free mental health services valued at over $100,000 annually, may be forced to stop hiring licensed professionals. At a recent hearing on the proposal, Dr. James Cole, a forensic psychologist representing the Nebraska Psychology Association, argued that such a rule change could too easily lead to discrimination as long as the therapist can claim religious conflict. He stated that under the national ethics code, any licensed psychologist is required to refer a patient to another a provider if the provider feels that he/she will have to compromise values in order to treat the patient. "I have provided psychological services to individuals convicted of murder, and I have never had to compromise my moral belief that killing is wrong,” said Cole. Cole insists that the refuse-to-refer clause is morally wrong, effectively denying help and care to people who need it. Another hearing will likely be held on both proposed rule changes before the Nebraska State Licensing Board makes a decision.