Bill Description: House Bill 63 would recognize that professional counselors and marriage and family therapists have the right not to provide services that go against their sincerely held principles.
Does it give government any new, additional, or expanded power to prohibit, restrict, or regulate activities in the free market? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce government intervention in the market?
In a free market, interactions between providers and consumers of goods and services would always be voluntary, with no one being compelled to serve another in violation of their beliefs or principles. Under our regulated economy, such freedom of association has been deprioritized, and providers are increasingly being forced to act contrary to their sincerely held principles.
House Bill 63 would create Section 54-3416, Idaho Code, to carve out some protections for those "engaged in the practice of professional counseling or marriage and family therapy in the state of Idaho."
Under this law, such providers would not be "required to counsel or serve a client regarding goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor or therapist."
This protection would prevent "a civil cause of action," "criminal prosecution," and "disciplinary action" against providers for refusing to provide services that violate their principles.
It is good that HB 63 would extend this protection. But it also places limits on these protections. One limit is the requirement that "the professional counselor or marriage and family therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy."
Another limitation says the protections "shall not apply to a counselor or therapist when an individual seeking or undergoing counseling is in imminent danger of harming himself or others until such time as the counselor has fulfilled his duty to warn obligations under chapter 19, title 6, Idaho Code, if applicable, and has transferred the patient to the care of another counselor or therapist."
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
The protections that would be provided to professional counselors and marriage and family therapists by House Bill 61 are necessary and appropriate. Protecting the right of service providers to act according to their principles is a necessary component of reestablishing freedom of association as a fundamental right.
It is disappointing that this bill's protections are limited to a narrow subset of service providers, but it provides a model for future efforts to more fully recognize freedom of association for all market participants in Idaho.