AACC Defends Choice of Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow as Plenary Speaker

The American Association of Christian Counselors continues to indirectly respond to charges that the organization owned by Tim Clinton has become politicized. One focus of criticism has been AACC’s choice to feature one of President Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow (see the AACC petition here). Yesterday, the AACC amended a promotional email by changing Jay Sekulow’s bio to include a statement about why he is speaking at a conference of counselors.
Sekulow AACC bio 2
Compare this to the prior bio:
Jay Sekulow AACC
As a lawyer, Sekulow can speak to these legal issues. However, I don’t believe he could make a good case that his organization is on the cutting edge of mental health and counseling issues. Most of the important cases relating to what religious counselors can and can’t do have been litigated by Alliance Defending Freedom. A search of Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice doesn’t show any cases or news items involving counselors over the past two years, and that was a pro-life “sidewalk counselor” case. The ACLJ has focused on politics, opposition to abortion, and immigration.
“Getting involved in public policy discussions” is not the primary objection in the Change.org petition to remove politics from the AACC. The issue relates to one-sided partisan politics and the perception that the AACC has been silent in the face of statements and actions from the president which make the work of counselors more difficult. Sekulow isn’t known right now as an expert on the intersection of religious liberty and mental health. He is known as a defender of Trump’s actions and statements.
If Tim Clinton wanted to address these concerns, he could diversify the ideological offerings at the Conference. For instance, host a forum on healthcare and invite speakers of all ideologies to address counselors. Have single-payer advocates, Obama care advocates, and radical free market advocates address the paying customers. AACC right now is incredibly one-sided and heavily weighted with ideological mates of owner Tim Clinton.
See all articles regarding the American Association of Christian Counselors here: AACC

Better Business Bureau: The American Association of Christian Counselors Gets a D-

Recently, the president and owner of the American Association of Christian Counselors Tim Clinton has come under some scrutiny from former and current AACC members due to his support for President Donald Trump. In response to the petition at Change.org, some former and current members have written to me with complaints about other aspects of the organization. One common complaint relates to poor customer service and lack of responsiveness from the organization. Looking into this a little, I found that the AACC is rated “D-” by the Better Business Bureau.
The basis for the BBB’s rating is a high volume of complaints, poor reviews, and the length of time for AACC to respond to the complaints. BBB has received 105 complaints about the AACC over the past three years. Many of the complaints have to do with unacceptably slow refunds (e.g., two years!) for a cancelled conference.
The author of the petition regarding AACC and president Tim Clinton’s move into partisan politics — Dr. Aaron New — has had almost no response to his inquiries. I have not received even a no comment to questions about AACC’s position on healthcare reform.

The AACC is a Business

To me, it is a little surprising that the AACC is unresponsive. The corporation is in the business of selling counseling services and training materials. A business that relies on satisfied customers should work hard to satisfy them. Perhaps, AACC’s leaders are unresponsive because they have a near monopoly in their field. The only other group in that space is the Christian Association for Psychological Studies which is much smaller and not as glitzy.
Unlike other mental health professional groups (e.g., APA, ACA, NASW), AACC is a for-profit business owned by Tim Clinton. According to a 2003 SEC filing, Tim Clinton is the sole shareholder of the AACC. The BBB website lists the following officers (information supplied by the AACC):

  • Mr. Tim Clinton, President
  • Mr. Ben Allison
  • Ms. Sharon Naylor, Accounting Manager
  • Mr. Jimmy D Queen, COO
  • Mr. Eric Scalise, CEO
  • Mr. Alexander Smith, CFO
  • Mr. C. L. Stewart, Bookkeeper
There is also a nonprofit AACC Foundation which, according to the AACC website:

IS OUR NON-PROFIT WORLDWIDE RESOURCE that exists to encourage the development of Christian counseling worldwide through funding of various programs that are not priorities in a for-profit, business model, but are nonetheless crucial to the comprehensive development of a Christian counseling ministry.

According to the latest IRS 990 form available on Guidestar, the board of AACC Foundation consisted of Jimmy Queen and Ron Hawkins. Queen is the COO of the for-profit AACC and Hawkins is on the AACC “Executive Board.” In light of “arms length” guidelines, it seems questionable to have the same board members on the for-profit and nonprofit boards. According to the 2015 990, AACC Foundation paid the for-profit AACC, Inc. over $500,000 for employee leasing, printing and other services. If you donate to the AACC Foundation, you can get a tax deduction but it is a safe bet that much of your donation will go toward buying materials and services produced by the for-profit AACC.
On the AACC website, what is called the Executive Board has no decision making power and only advises if asked. The website gives the appearance of a professional trade association with various divisions and advisory boards but in fact, AACC is a for-profit business. The members don’t vote for officers to set policy for the practice and professionalization of Christian counseling. Tim Clinton is and will always be president.

AACC: Is This the Best Way to Organize a Trade Association?

The lack of responsiveness and transparency at AACC may lead some Christian mental health professionals to question more than the political movements there. It is a fair to ask if a for-profit model is the best way for Christian mental health professionals to organize their professional interests. Let me close with one possible conflict of interests which I hope to discuss more in a future post.
In the view of many working mental health professionals, mental health care is a necessity in any insurance plan. There are beneficial medical cost offsets when mental health concerns are properly treated. Also, it is both counter to scientific evidence and inhumane to discriminate against coverage of mental disorders in insurance plans. Furthermore, to oppose mental health parity is counter to the business interests of mental health providers who rely on third party payments for their income. However, if AACC is committed to supporting Trump’s or the GOP’s minimalist approach to health benefits because the owner is a Trump supporter, then is AACC working in the best interests of members or the owner? Members can’t vote and the leaders don’t answer legitimate questions about AACC policy and advocacy. This would not be tolerated in a member-driven nonprofit trade association. At some point, I wonder if members will ask if they should continue to labor within the current paradigm.
To sign the petition calling for removal of politics from the AACC, go to Change.org.

The American Association of Christian Counselors Conference Features Court Evangelicals

Trump court evangelical picThe American Association of Christian Counselors hosts a regular conference in September which is often as much glitz as professional development. Contemporary Christian music artists sing (Mercy Me this year) and big name speakers speak (e.g., Eric Metaxas). There are also professional workshops and training sessions and materials to buy galore. Full disclosure, I have presented workshops at these conferences and once upon a time was on the AACC advisory board even though we rarely advised anyone about anything.
This year’s conference looks almost like a meeting of President Trump’s court evangelicals and religious defense team. Eric Metaxas is a keynoter and the leaders just added Jack Graham and Jay Sekulow. AACC owner Tim Clinton is right in the middle of the court in the image to the right.

See below for the Trump court evangelicals just added:

Jack Graham AACC
Jay Sekulow AACC
I got this information from an AACC member who is tired of how politically focused AACC has become. Although I don’t think a mass exodus is coming, I am hearing rumblings that at least some counselors have dropped membership and others are considering it.
I hope there will be a session on healthcare reform and the persistent demand of Republicans to drop basic benefits like mental health coverage which many of the AACC members rely on for their livelihood and their clients need to get treatment. I also hope there is a session on narcissism and that it is well attended.
Perhaps, Trump’s new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci can give a session on clean communication and dealing with the press. Court evangelicals would just eat that up.