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Two Groups Pull Conventions Over Counseling Law

Posted at 9:38 PM, May 11, 2016

Two groups have decided to move their conventions out of town, taking $2.8 million in visitor spending and $500,000 in taxes with them, according to the Visitors Corp, because of the state's new counseling law.

At more than $620 million, Music City Center was the most expensive city project in Metro's history, and staff there said they are worried about it's future.

"Of all the state legislation impacting counseling during my 30 years with ACA, the new bill is the worst," said American Counseling Association President Richard Yep in a Youtube video rolled out by the ACA Tuesday.

Two groups have decided to move their conventions out of town, taking $2.8 million in visitor spending and $500,000 in taxes with them, according to the Visitors Corp.

The Centers for Spiritual Living confirmed to NewsChannel 5 it would not host its 550-member convention at the downtown Sheraton next year.

"There was a hefty cancelation fee for doing that. We've been under contract for almost two years now with the hotel," said Chair of the Center's Leadership Council Rev. Dr. David Alexander.

Both groups said the moves were in response to the recent counseling law that allows therapists to turn away clients for religious reasons. Many believe it targets the LGBT community.

"Anyone has the freedom to have their own religious beliefs," said Alexander, "but they don't need to have legislative protection to discriminate based on those beliefs."

He said the Centers have both members and leaders around the country who identify as LGBT, and they could not take them to a "state that has legalized discrimination against them." 

The American Counseling Association expected 4,000 people at Music City Center next year.

"If the new law is allowed to stand we cannot in good conscience bring business to Tennessee," Yep said.

Local officials have crossed their fingers hoping it wasn't the beginning of a larger trend. President and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp Butch Spyridon released the following statement:

 “We are obviously disappointed, but we are not surprised. This cancellation is the second one and is likely just the tip of the iceberg when you consider all the other groups that won’t consider us now. It is regrettable that all the hard work and investment to make Nashville a top destination has been unnecessarily undone by politics.”