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Second convention pulls out of Nashville over anti-LGBT law

Centers for Spiritual Living says therapist exemption bill violates its principles of equality for all

Nashville's skyline at night (Photo: Kaldari, via Wikimedia).
Nashville’s skyline at night (Photo: Kaldari, via Wikimedia).

Just a day after the world’s largest counseling organization canceled plans to hold its 2017 convention in Nashville due to Tennessee’s recently passed counseling exemption law, a second organization has followed suit, reports The Tennessean.

The Colorado-based Centers for Spiritual Living, which represents 400 churches, ministries, study groups and teaching chapters, has announced that it will pull out, following the example set by the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) scuttled plans.

The Centers for Spiritual Living conference had been expected to draw more than 550 people to Nashville, generating an estimated $301,000 in direct spending from conventioneers and $55,000 in combined local and state tax revenue, according to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. That’s on top of financial losses from the loss of the 3,000 people who were expected to come to Nashville for the ACA’s conference, with could cost the state and the city a combined $4 million in state and local taxes. 

Leaders for the religious group say they decided to take a stand against the new law, known as HB 1840, because it goes against their principles of supporting equality and out of compassion for LGBT people. The bill, as signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam (R), allows therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals to cite “sincerely held principles” as justification for refusing to treat clients who identify as LGBT or with whose behaviors they disagree.

“When the legislation was sent over to the governor’s desk, we actualy had great hopes that it would be vetoed and canceled,” Kenn Gordon, spiritual leader for Centers for Spiritual Living, said in a statement. “But it wasn’t, and so when he signed it into law that was the decision-point we made to pull out.”

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