DOUGLASS, TENNESSEE — When Dr. Henry Mitchell got word that Republicans in his state had passed a bill that was headed to Governor Bill Haslam’s (R-TN) desk to either be signed or vetoed, he says he began to formulate a plan, which he calls his own version of “civil protest.”
“If Republicans are going to open the door to religious-based discrimination against gay or transgender people,” Mitchell — a 42-year-old psychologist with a practice he has operated in his small Tennessee town for 15 years — told us, “then I’m going to show them why the First Amendment was meant to protect citizens from this kind of crap in my own way.”
Dr. Mitchell told our reporter that should Haslam sign the law — which was amended to broaden the scope of allowable discrimination in the state as long as it was religiously-based — he planned to institute a “no religious patients” policy at his practice. “In the Bible belt,” Mitchell said, “that may be the kiss of death for my practice, but I don’t care. Christians, and any religious person, won’t be allowed to get treatment from me.”
He admits that this is a “fight fire with fire” idea and that some might find it to be distasteful, but Dr. Mitchell told us he’s “sick to death of Republicans treating this country like we want to be a theocracy” and that “many atheists go through life helping people whose lifestyles we find repugnant all the time.”
“But no one,” Mitchell said, “is writing a law that allows atheists to discriminate. At least not specifically.” However, Dr. Mitchell says he agrees with many legal experts that the Tennessee bill could be used to open the flood gates of discrimination in his state, and therefore he feels his new policy will perhaps help change some minds. “There are often unintended consequences of poorly thought out legislation,” Mitchell said, “and me discriminating against Christians, Jews, and Muslims — but especially Christians — is one of the unintended consequences. Thank God the Republicans are here to start a religious war with LGBT community, huh?”
Dr. Mitchell assured us he would not institute the policy at his practice if Governor Haslam “does the right thing and vetoes that God awful bill.” But if the law is signed into the books, he is prepared to fight any lawsuit brought against him for discrimination, and he will use the anti-LGBT law’s vague language to argue that anyone for any reason can be discriminated against as long as the discriminator is doing so based on their religious beliefs.
“These are the kinds of idiotic laws that we fought against when they were called Jim Crow laws,” Mitchell said, “and now they’re pulling it with LGBT people. As a therapist, I want to help people of all walks of life, but I will not sit by and let some of my own patients be bullied by their government, not without a fight of my own.”
Governor Haslam has yet to indicate if he will sign the bill into law. Similar laws in states like North Carolina have created enormous popular backlash that has seen Corporate America threaten to boycott states that put these types of laws into effect.