American Counseling Association and religious liberty
Dr. Warren ThrockmortonWarren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College (PA). He co-founded the Golden Rule Pledge which advocates bullying prevention in evangelical churches. His academic articles have been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He is the author with fellow Grove City College professor, Michael Coulter, of the book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Over 200 newspapers have published his columns. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2008 Feb 18
Last Wednesday, February 13, I sent a letter of complaint to the American Counseling Association along with over 400 of my closest colleagues (getting close to 500 by now, in part thanks to the American Association of Christian Counselors). In brief, I believe the ACA violated Policy 301.7 when the ACA Ethics Committee said
There are treatments endorsed by the Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling (see http://www.aglbic.org/resources/competencies.html), a division of the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association (see http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/guidelines.html) that have been successful in helping clients with their sexual orientation. These treatments are gay affirmative and help a client reconcile his/her same-sex attractions with religious beliefs.
Policy 301.7 states:
Policy and Role on Non-Consensus Social Issues of Conscience
Having respect for the individual’s values and integrity in no way restricts us as individuals from finding legitimate avenues to express and support our views to others, who decide and make policy around these issues. To this end, it will be ACA Governing Council policy to encourage its members to find and use every legitimate means to examine, discuss, and share their views on such matters within the Association. We also endorse the member’s right to support social, political, religious, and professional actions groups whose values and positions on such issues are congruent with their own. Through such affiliations, every member has an opportunity to participate in shaping of government policies which guide public action.
To truly celebrate our diversity, we must be united in our respect for the differences in our membership. To this end, the role of the Association in such matters is to support the rights of members to hold contrary points of views, to provide forums for developing understanding and consensus building, and to maintain equal status and respect for all members and groups within the organization. Following this philosophy, the Governing Council considers it inappropriate for this body to officially take sides on issues which transcend professional identity and membership affiliation, and which substantially divide our membership, at least until such time that there can be a visible consensus produced among the membership.
Now read this full Ethics Committee opinion and see if you think 301.7 is violated. I suspect readers will break along ideological lines but, in my mind, this is just one of several issues where ACA has taken positions in absence of consensus.
The Alliance Defense Fund is also supporting my view of the situation with this letter. ACA President Brian Canfield contacted me to say that the issue will be brought before the ACA Governing Council at the March meeting. Just to be clear, I am not taking issue with the responsibility of the ACA to identify questionable treatments (and there are some "treatments" that should be examined) but I am disturbed by their assertion that one religious view should be preferred over another by counselors.