Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs

(Dialogue is a precious, fruitful process for wisdom-mining.  Please let others know what you sense in your heart about what I write here and elsewhere — and about what others write too.  Dialogue is wisdom-minding as much as wisdom-mining.  It is the way we mine our hearts for wisdom and remind our minds of wisdom’s value as an eternally available natural resource.  Unlike fossil fuels, wisdom is a living, replenishable and timeless resource to fuel our mental engines.)

Spokespersons for the LGBTQ community seem to be in an uproar about a piece of legislation recently signed into law in Tennessee protecting therapists who refuse to treat LGBTQ clients because providing such treatment conflicts with the therapist’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”  I believe this law is worthy of note on account of its legal as well as community health and social justice implications but not for the reasons offered by those who oppose the law on the grounds of separation of “church and hate.”  (The eloquent article from which I extract that quote can be found at http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/4/21/tennessee-needs-lesson-separation-church-and-hate.)

I look at this piece of legislation as merely the first step towards protecting clients who are members of the LGBTQ community, allies of this community or members of any other frequently stigmatized community and its allies.  I propose that Tennessee and all other states pass laws that require psychotherapists of all stripes to file an annual disclosure form with the state’s professional licensing agency disclosing all forms of biases, prejudices and phobias by which the therapist is beset.  The comparable situation for a massage therapist who has an active case of tuberculosis would be to require that the massage therapist openly disclose his or her active disease so that clients who prefer not to become infected by TB might find someone else to provide massages during the masseur’s infectious period.

Closeted bigots (homophobics and others) who become licensed psychotherapists do great damage to those who open their hearts and minds to them because the therapist’s fears transmit to the client as surely as TB bacteria transmit through the air in closed spaces when the carrier of TB is in close proximity to the potential recipient of the bacteria.  Fear is an infectious emotional energy that radiates from each of us as surely as the air we breathe exits from our lungs when we breathe out.  Just as surely, the energy of fear transmitted by another person in close proximity to us contaminates our own energy field as if we’ve breathed it in.  Clients who trust a therapist of any kind to be a source of health and well-being rather than a transmitter of pollutants can be protected by mandatory disclosure of emotional infections of which a therapist is a carrier.

To go a step further, it may be even more protective of the public’s welfare to require that all therapists undergo annual emissions tests to determine the nature of the emotional pollutants they are transmitting into the energy field into which their clients enter during therapy sessions.  We require mandatory emissions tests for automobiles.  Why allow therapists to escape this responsibility when their noxious emotional fumes’ effects are comparably toxic and harmful?

If a therapist sincerely holds religious beliefs that prevent him or her from seeing a client accurately, let’s get those beliefs publicized as broadly as necessary to alert existing and potential clients to the therapist’s fear-distorted perspective.  Perhaps we should establish a public registry of offenders who sincerely hold both professional licenses as well as fear-based beliefs that they reinforce and justify by citation to religious texts.  If a therapist is afraid that God will condemn him or her to hell for treating a client of a particular protected class with respect, honor and dignity as a highly valued person, let’s have that fact known and do indeed protect that client and his or her whole class from that therapist.  Let’s no longer allow therapists to creep around in the dark lying and lurking in wait to spring themselves upon unsuspecting innocent clients.  Enough of this heretofore unacknowledged lying and lurking in secret!  Ambush-by-therapist should be outlawed!  Let’s have the lying out in the open and the lurking publicly disclosed.  Would that not reduce the incidence of private indecency to which unsuspecting clients would be otherwise exposed?

Of course, we should also allow provision of mercy for those therapists who later repent and remove them from the registry upon adequate proof of their sincerely held repentance.  We must allow no law establishing mandatory reporting or setting up an offenders’ registry to become itself an instrument of injustice. The unforgiving nature of the Internet’s memory and the implications of an unpurgeable public record are additional concerns we may also want to wrestle with.  Surely we do not believe, “Once a bigot, always a bigot!” With adequate help even the foulest of spiritual offenders may be redeemed and provide helpful public service.  Does not the life of the apostle known as Paul prove that point?

Dear Reader, what do you think about mandatory reporting of this nature and the utility of a public registry for spiritual offenders who prefer to retain their fear-based judgmental attitudes on the pretense that their attitudes are ordained of God?

© Art Nicol 2016

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