California and New Jersey passed new laws this year barring counselors from talk-therapy that would aid minors in getting rid of unwanted same sex-attractions. Equating conversations with lobotomies and electric shock treatments, the two states assert that they are well within their rights to dictate how mental health professionals should go about their counseling.
Though "reparative therapy" has been stigmatized by the media, sexual attraction does in fact change for many people throughout their lifetimes. Mounting evidence proves this kind of counseling can be invaluable to those seeking to change their attractions.
As Nicholas Cummings, former president of the American Psychological Association, who treated thousands of gays and lesbians in San Francisco throughout his career asserted, "Contending that all same-sex attraction is immutable is a distortion of reality. Attempting to characterize all sexual reorientation therapy as 'unethical' violates patient choice and gives an outside party a veto over patients' goals for their own treatment."
Banning licensed professionals from helping Christian teens struggling with same-sex attraction to process through the experiences and environments that may have contributed to their unwanted attractions is cruel and unconstitutional.
For the sake of a political agenda, the desperate cries of patients and sound judgments of licensed professionals are being silenced. This ban pushes young people towards homosexuality without giving them time or space to even consider other options – which seems to be the whole idea behind it.
Given the gross interference with sought-after counsel, one might think the courts would promptly remedy the error.
Yet, as it turns out, there is a legal issue at hand: is talk-therapy speech or conduct? While the answer seems obvious – since the regulated activity pertains to a counselor speaking to a patient – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court, an overarching federal court that oversees California and other western states, held in April of this year that the activity is actually conduct, not speech. A couple of weeks ago a federal judge in New Jersey followed suit, holding the statute banning therapy in that state "only regulates conduct, and not speech in any constitutionally protected forum…."
In both instances, the findings were controlling since the First Amendment contains a free speech clause, not a free conduct clause. The two courts upheld the bans as constitutional.
This legal trend is deeply troubling. If counseling and one-on-one advice is not protected free speech under the First Amendment, the implications are far broader than reparative therapy. What other speech will now be open to regulation? Will other unpopular speech be classified as "conduct" to deprive it of constitutional covering?
For the families in California and New Jersey, all is not lost. Pastors and other non-licensed counselors are still able to provide counseling to get rid of same-sex attraction. But, as it currently stands, children are prohibited from obtaining professional help.
The battle is not over. The current cases are being appealed, and because several states are considering similar bans, other jurisdictions will have an opportunity to weigh in on these important matters.
If not already, this issue about same-sex attraction therapy should come to your state soon, and when it does, legislators and judges will be called on to decide: Do professional Christian counselors have the right to offer biblically-based counsel and do Christian teens have the right to receive it?
Or, does the state have the right to outlaw wisdom?