Religious Objection Opt-Out For Arkansas Counselors Advances

Jun 14, 2016

Credit Chris Hickey / KUAR News

A rule allowing Arkansas counselors to refer patients to another provider over religious objections is advancing, sparking criticism that the move could deny mental health services to gay and lesbian people.

A subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council on Tuesday endorsed the rule change proposed by the state Board of Examiners in Counseling, which regulates 2,800 counselors and marriage and family therapists in the state.

The rule would allow counselors and therapists to refer a client over "ethical, moral or religious principles" but only after careful consideration and consultation. It also says counselors cannot abandon someone who seeks assistance.

The Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas criticized the rule, calling it a green light for counselors to deny services to someone over religious beliefs.