A petition has been launched to call for the depoliticisation of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), challenging the 'unconscionable' support for Donald Trump from the group's president Tim Clinton.
Trump's character and behaviour, the petition argues, is the kind that creates the sort of trauma that counsellors spend their lives trying to heal. The AACC has defended its right to engage with national leaders.
'What we are hoping for is to keep AACC removed from partisan politics, and the AACC events to feature people who are involved in counseling, not the culture wars,' reads the online petition, founded by current and former AACC members.
The petition includes a letter from former AACC member Dr Aaron New, who said he allowed his AACC membership to expire after concerns about the group's 'direction and mission'. New criticised AACC president Tim Clinton for his unambiguous backing of Donald Trump.
He wrote: 'Dr Clinton has been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump through his candidacy and presidency. As far as I can tell, he has never offered any public criticism of Trump's character, behaviour, or policies. He has, however, gone out of his way to publicly confirm and praise him. Just one example (but of particular concern) was Dr Clinton's silence during the controversy that surrounded Trump after the release of the Access Hollywood video.'
He added: 'As the leader of the flagship Christian Counseling organization, it seemed unconscionable to me that Dr Clinton refused to condemn such harmful words and behaviours – the very kinds of words and behaviours that we work against in our offices and with our clients every day.
'I believe that the members of the AACC deserve better leadership and guidance than this. At a minimum (and in my clinical opinion), Trump exhibits the character and behaviours of a person who, if in our offices, would be challenged not celebrated.'
New said that Trump's 'character and behaviours are the kind that cause wounds and trauma to the very people that end up needing the care of Christian Counselors. It seems hypocritical to celebrate Trumpish character and behaviour because of political power or expediency and simultaneously try to care for the people who are harmed by them'.
However, Clinton told Christian Today the AACC was 'not a political organisation' and did not intend to become one. Nevertheless, he said, 'we do care about, speak to and advocate for certain policies that effect our members' ability to integrate their faith with their respective, professional disciplines.
'When we do so we also seek to present a balanced, reasoned voice in the politically charged environment we live in everyday. As an organisation, we are particularly interested in issues related to religious liberty, ethical standards and certain regulatory considerations as it relates to training, practice, accreditation, and licensure as Christian practitioners.'
He continued: 'We are, additionally, interested in government policies and programs effecting suicide prevention, the opioid crisis, support for military families, trauma recovery, managed care, mental health benefits, client rights and self determination in mental and relational healthcare and more.'
He said AACC members had 'varying and nuanced points of view' on many issues but 'as a Christian organization we proudly advocate for the rights of Christian professionals to appropriately integrate their faith in their vocation'.
In a statement on behalf of the AACC board, Dr Ron Hawkins referred to the organisation's 'judicious role in engaging with national leaders and advocating for policies that allow our members to continue to integrate their faith in their professional lives'.
He added: 'While the AACC does not endorse individual candidates for public office, the AACC board not only allows but expects its executive leadership to be directly involved in advocacy efforts for the purpose of influencing public policy as it relates to mental health and other relevant areas of concern for our membership'.