Senator Hunter's Statement on Senate Bill 518
An Individual's Right to Assert a Conscientious Objection Must be Protected
I believe that all people should be protected under the law from discrimination, harassment, and bullying whether it occurs in school or in the work place, via text messaging or over the internet, because of a person's ethnicity, physical appearance, style of dress, or sexual preference. However, I think it is equally important to protect the rights of those who are discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
That is why I have recently introduced SB 518, which would prohibit a public or private degree program from discriminating against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program for declining to counsel or serve a client if the established goal of treatment would pose a conflict with the student's religious beliefs or moral convictions. The legislation would allow the student to refer the client to an individual who would be able to provide the necessary treatment.
A client is entitled to receive the best care when seeking counseling services. However, it is ultimately in the best interest of the student and the client if both the values of the student and the needs of the client are respected equally. I believe a student should not be forced into a situation in which he/she would have to provide treatment while concealing their values conflict in order to avoid expulsion from a degree program. How is this good for the student or the client, especially
There is no dishonor to the profession nor harm done to the client by simply referring him/her to another individual who can best assist the client in meeting his/her established goals for counseling. For example, if a gay or lesbian student in a program was to be assigned to a client who happened to be considered homophobic, no one would expect the student to affirm the homophobia of that client. The student would most likely have a values conflict that would make it difficult for him/her to provide the appropriate treatment. Further, no one would expect the student to be required to seek sensitivity training or change his/her sexual orientation in order to avoid the consequence of being expelled from a degree program. It would only be reasonable to allow the student to refer the client to another counselor.
Is it fair that in this country, where all citizens have the freedom of religion, a student would have to change his/her religious beliefs or moral convictions in order to receive a degree I firmly believe that it is wrong for any institution of higher learning in this state to expel a student from a program because of their refusal to compromise their own belief system. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Regardless of who agrees or disagrees, every citizen has the right to maintain their own core beliefs, values, and convictions. That is why I believe our laws should protect the rights of every individual, including the right to assert a conscientious objection.