I am a licensed social worker in the state of Texas. I also am a seminary graduate.
When both of these roles are approached ethically, responsibly and with appropriate boundaries, they work together beautifully.
It is because of my faith that I deeply care about social work, and it is through social work that I get a glimpse at the face of God through humanity.
It is because of both of these roles that I am so deeply appalled by the recent law put into place in Texas, which allows social workers to discriminate against those in the LGBTQ community and those who have a disability.
In short, this means that someone can walk up to a licensed social worker, ask for assistance and that social worker can legally choose not to work with them because they are disabled or within the LGBTQ community.
They are asking for the bare minimum of human decency and respect, and social workers can legally turn them away.
Statistically, those two groups are also more likely to need access to mental health resources due to the systemic oppression they experience and extra roadblocks within our systems of care.
And now the state of Texas has created an additional, and very large, roadblock for these two communities of people to access the resources they need to live healthy and whole lives.
This is aggressively against social workers’ code of ethics, which holds us to seeing the dignity and worth of a person, displaying integrity and valuing the importance of human relationships.
We are also bound to challenge social injustice in our society. How can we do this if we tell large populations of people that we cannot serve them because of an aspect of their identity that is completely out of their control?
The law in Texas right now is allowing a social worker to do unethical things. This will only do harm and end with individuals not receiving the resources they need to live healthy and safe lives.
It is violently against how I am called as a follower of Christ to treat my neighbors who are made in the image of God. Social worker or not, Christians should be appalled by this new law.
In Scripture, we see multiple stories of Christ loving those with disabilities and reminding us we are all made in God’s image.
“Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous’” (Luke 14:12-13).
How often do we see Scripture commanding us to love our neighbors? We see in Romans 12:10 we should “be devoted to one another in love. Honoring one another above yourselves.”
Turning someone away because of who they are is the opposite of honoring them. If we need any more proof, Genesis 1:27 reminds us “God created humanity in God’s own image.”
If we truly believe each person is made in the image of God, then we cannot sit idle when discrimination like this is happening.
As we all do, I took to my personal social media to explain my outrage and sadness over yet another attack against individuals in vulnerable situations.
To my surprise, this new policy seemed to be one that people across the spectrum of political ideology disliked and disagreed with.
At first, I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe this is the only thing we can all rally behind.
My optimism quickly reverted to my natural state of cynicism (I like to call it realism) as I wondered how differently this would be received if it were solely discriminating against LGBTQ individuals.
Was it because the disabled community was also included in this decision that people seemed angered?
To be clear, the disabled community absolutely needs and deserves advocacy and has also faced discrimination for years. They do not deserve to be discriminated against and this law is absolutely unfair to them.
However, Texas as a whole tends to see LGBTQ individuals as those making an immoral/sinful choice and that choice should come with consequences, such as lack of access to professional services.
That viewpoint is discriminatory in and of itself, and I could write a completely different article about how wrong it is.
However, with the state having strong conservative Christian ideology, I can’t help but wonder how this policy would be received differently by those outside of the social work profession if it were solely discriminating against the LGBTQ community.
I am deeply grieved by this decision. When looking inward, I worry about the integrity of my profession.
When putting that aside, I focus on our friends in marginalized communities who are told they are not important and that they are not worth as much as others.
It is communicated to them that they are seen as “less than” in the eyes of society and that is horrific. It should grieve us to our core.
For those within these communities, know that this is not OK. You deserve more than this.
Know that we are fighting for you. Know that you matter, you are loved, and you are valued infinitely more than what society sometimes communicates. I am sorry this is happening yet again.
For those not a part of these communities, do what you are commanded to do. Love your neighbor. Remind them they matter. Advocate on their behalf.
Help remind others that every single person is made in the image of God and every single person deserves respect and care.
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other entity or organization with which she is affiliated.