Permission to speak? | WORLD
NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming soon The world and all in it: conversion therapy.
Twenty states now have laws that prohibit counselors from doing or saying anything to help patients with gender identity or sexual orientation issues. This puts Christian therapists in a difficult position. Even mentioning the biblical view of sexuality and gender might get them in trouble.
MARY REICHARD, HTE: A licensed family therapist in Washington State challenges one of these so-called conversion therapy bans. He says his state’s 2018 law violates his right to free speech.
Steve West is joining us now with more details on the case. He is a lawyer and WORLD correspondent who writes the Liberties newsletter for WORLD Digital. Hello Steve!
STEVE WEST, GUEST: Hello, Mary.
REICHARD: Let’s start by defining a few terms here. What Is Conversion Therapy Under Washington State Law?
WEST: She defines conversion therapy rather disturbingly as “a diet that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity” and encompasses all efforts to “change behavior or expressions. gender, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic feelings or attractions towards individuals of the same sex. It’s very broad and very similar to the laws of other states, which is not surprising given the similar groups that promote them.
REICHARD: Activists pushing these bans usually focus on barbaric treatments like shock therapy, don’t they? Are they even used or promoted by reputable therapists?
WEST: This is not happening. Traditional professional counseling organizations disavow intrusive treatment. The same is true of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), which has 50,000 members, although it does allow speaking. I am sure that isolated examples can be presented in the distant past, but that is not what is happening.
REICHARD: Ok, so tell us about this case. Who sued and what is he claiming?
WEST: This lawsuit is brought by lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Brad Tingley, a family counselor and licensed therapist in Tacoma, WA with 20 years of experience. Tingley wants to be able to speak with teens who come to see him because they have an unwanted attraction to the same sex or are having difficulty with their gender identity. This is the key: these are teenagers who want help but under this law cannot get it. Interestingly, the law would allow Tingley to counsel a teenager to accept attraction to the same sex or a sex other than their biological sex.
REICHARD: What is the legal precedent in cases like this?
WEST: Two 2014 decisions from federal appeals courts upheld New Jersey and California laws of similar scope. The same was true of a 2019 ruling by a Maryland district court judge. But in November 2020, the 11th appeal circuit that covers Florida, Georgia and Alabama spoke out against Florida’s twin bans on so-called conversion therapy.
REICHARD: Did the previous challenges take the same approach in terms of focusing on the issue of freedom of expression, or did they use different legal strategies?
WEST: The strategy is pretty much the same. Advocates present them as being focused on conduct, not speech, which means that the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not apply. Yet the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals did not buy this. The panel said, “People have intense moral, religious and spiritual views on these issues, on all sides. And that is exactly why the First Amendment does not allow communities to determine how their neighbors can be counseled on matters of sexual orientation or gender.
REICHARD: It seems likely that one of these cases will end up in the Supreme Court, doesn’t it?
WEST: I think so, especially since we see the circuit appellate courts divided on the issue. And I think most parents, and many judges who are parents, would identify with a teenager who just wants to talk to someone who can offer them help. What the hell is wrong with that? And it’s also ironic that a world that tells children that they can be who they want to be tells them that they can’t change, that those unwanted feelings are what they are and that they should be. accept.
REICHARD: Steve West is a lawyer and WORLD correspondent. He writes on religious freedom issues for WORLD Digital. You can find out more about Steve’s work and sign up for the weekly Freedoms newsletter at WNG.org. Thanks a lot, Steve!
WEST: Always a pleasure, Mary.
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