Religious Beliefs versus Sexual Orientation: What do you think? Ethical Challenges Series

A coach and client have been working together for six months with a focus on the client’s business.  The client wants to discuss a challenge they are having with their same-sex partner.  The coach is religious and feels they cannot be effective because they feel same-sex relationships are wrong.  The coach has completed their coach training and is a member of the ICF and accountable to the Code of Ethics.

Possible Responses:

  • The coach can inform the client of their religious beliefs and let the client choose whether or not to continue.
  • The coach can inform the client that they have a personal conflict and remove themselves.
  • The coach can determine to give the client their best as a coach regardless of their own values.
  • The coach can work on their own beliefs to be open to all.
  • The coach can ask the client to support them in being open and accepting.
  • The coach can share the conflict and their desire to be open and ask the client how they want to handle it.
  • What else?

Refer to the ICF Code of Ethics:

4) Refrain from unlawful discrimination in occupational activities, including age, race, gender orientation, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin or disability.

8) Strive at all times to recognize my personal issues that may impair, conflict with or interfere with my coaching performance or my professional coaching relationships. I will promptly seek the relevant professional assistance and determine the action to be taken, including whether it is appropriate to suspend or terminate my coaching relationship(s) whenever the facts and circumstances necessitate.


Q: How can I better understand what determines discrimination when coaching clients?
A: Refer to state, provincial, or national law to determine what is considered discrimination in your area.

How do you recommend it be handled?

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