After a lengthy fight, a plan to let therapists opt out of counseling clients because of their religious beliefs is heading to a full vote in the state House of Representatives.
The measure was approved Wednesday by the House Health Committee. It essentially trumps a 2014 ethics decision by the American Counseling Association, which declared therapists couldn't turn away clients over their religious grounds.
Supporters of the legislation say clients are better off being referred to other counselors. In a 90-minute hearing Wednesday — one of several on the bill this year — conservative activist David Fowler summed up the thinking of counselors who have religious objections.
"It's not about, 'I need to protect me,'" he said. "It's that I cannot help you if we have a fundamental difference of values about the principles by which we understand our world."
One point in the debate was whether counselors should be able to decline children who say they are being bullied, particularly over their sexual orientation.
The committee eventually decided not to make a bullying exception before sending House Bill 1840 on for a final vote.
Companion legislation passed the state Senate in February.