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A positive sign for religious therapists

Religious Liberty | New York City seeks to withdraw ‘conversion therapy’ ban
by Steve West
Posted 9/17/19, 03:27 pm

Faced with a likely legal defeat, the New York City Council is thinking about repealing an ordinance banning so-called “gay conversion therapy.”

The 2018 city law makes it illegal to provide professional services that “seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or seek to change a person’s gender identity to conform to the sex of such individual that was recorded at birth.” Veteran Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist Dovid Schwartz objected to the city intruding in his conversations with patients who had unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. He filed a federal lawsuit in January to block the ordinance.

Roger Brooks, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Schwartz, said the city conceded in its court filings that no evidence could show Schwartz’s counseling harmed his patients. “The court was alive to and cared about the free speech and free exercise arguments,” Brooks said after a court hearing in June, adding he was “guardedly optimistic.”

That optimism was apparently warranted. The city’s retreat from the ordinance suggests its concern about the constitutionality of such severe restrictions on free speech. New York City Council member Corey Johnson, who is homosexual, introduced a measure to repeal the law on Thursday. “Obviously I didn’t want to repeal this,” he told The New York Times. “But the Supreme Court has become conservative; the [U.S. Court of Appeals for the] 2nd Circuit, which oversees New York, has become more conservative.”

The full council first must approve the measure and Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who is running for his party’s presidential nomination in 2020, then needs to sign it before the law is repealed.

But even then, therapists like Schwartz still have reasons to worry. A more narrowly crafted state law—one increasingly common among states and municipalities—still prohibits mental health professionals from trying to help shift the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors. Schwartz’s clients could attempt to sue for malpractice, consumer fraud, or breach of contract, though Brooks said they probably would not win since Schwartz never guarantees a patient any particular outcome.

Though pro-LGBT advocates often condemn “conversion therapy” methods like electroshock treatments, harassment, and physical abuse, Brooks said religious therapists simply want to engage in talk therapy, not other outdated and harmful methods. “It’s a bait-and-switch move,” Brooks said. “The talk is all about the horror of things, which, frankly, it’s not clear that anyone is doing these days in this country.”

Christian mental health professionals have uniformly distanced themselves from extreme forms of “reparative therapy,” a treatment concept that originated among secular psychologists. Heath Lambert, a pastor and the former executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, maintains that while homosexual behavior is sinful, conversion therapy is often ineffective and not Biblical. A person’s sexuality can change, he wrote, but not through invasive reparative therapies: “It is Jesus’ power to change that works in the Word and through the Biblical processes so that sin is defeated in the life of the believer.”

Facebook/Chick-fil-A Huebner & Babcock Facebook/Chick-fil-A Huebner & Babcock Customers enjoy their meals at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in San Antonio, Texas.

Texas chicken lovers take it to court

San Antonio City Council members who voted to ban Chick-fil-A from the city’s airport earlier this year doubtlessly did not anticipate how much it would ruffle some people’s feathers. Their decision sparked federal and state investigations, the passage of a new Texas law, and now a lawsuit from people who want to enjoy pre-flight Chick-Fil-A meals.

In a complaint filed Sept. 6, five Texas residents claim the city violated the newly passed “Save Chick-fil-A” law by continuing to ban the fast-food chain from the airport. They asked the court to make the city install the restaurant in the airport as previously planned and to keep San Antonio from giving the space to any other vendor.

The city claims that the court should dismiss the lawsuit because the council voted to exclude Chick-fil-A before the new law took effect on Sept. 1.

Austin attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, who represents the restaurant patrons, disagrees: “The city continues to exclude Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio airport.” —S.W. Duke Chapel on the Duke University campus in Durham, N.C.

Duke rejects Young Life

Duke University’s student government unanimously voted to reject Young Life’s application for official status because of the Christian youth organization’s rule against leaders, staff, or volunteers engaging in homosexual behavior. The group already had a following on the Durham, N.C., campus, but becoming an official student group would have allowed it to involve more students, the Duke Chronicle reported. The university has historical ties to the United Methodist Church but is an independent institution.

Young Life isn’t the first Christian group denied status or purged from a college because of nondiscrimination policies. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship sued Wayne State University for rejecting its routine application for renewed status in 2017 because the ministry requires leaders to be Christians. Business Leaders in Christ lost official status last year at the University of Iowa after firing a leader who came out as gay. —Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Associated Press/Photo by Rich Pedroncelli (file) Associated Press/Photo by Rich Pedroncelli (file) Sen. John Moorlach in Sacramento, Calif.

Legislators lecture pastors

The California Senate gave final approval last week to a resolution criticizing pastors, counselors, and religious workers who support people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.

The resolution chastises “family, caregivers, and communities” who promote “practices or therapies that attempt to create a change in a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” Authored and sponsored by Assemblyman Evan Low of San Jose, who is homosexual, the measure, which passed roughly along party lines, does not have the effect of law or require the signature of the governor.

But that doesn’t mean it is harmless. Speaking from the Senate floor, Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican, warned legislators of the religious liberty implications. Moorlach said he does not support all of the practices that might fall under the heading of “conversion therapy” but asked, “How can we foreclose on spiritual counseling when someone is on a journey and honestly inquiring about wanting to change and wants professional assistance?” —S.W.

Alliance Defending Freedom Alliance Defending Freedom Barronelle Stutzman designing wedding flowers

Floral appeal

Florist and 74-year-old great-grandmother Barronelle Stutzman asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take a second look at her case last week. Stutzman has spent five years defending her business and conscience in court after she referred her homosexual friend Robert Ingersoll to nearby florists because her faith kept her from creating the flower arrangements for his wedding.

The high court directed the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider its earlier decision against Stutzman in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling in favor of Christian baker Jack Phillips in 2018. But the Washington court stuck to its initial decision, and Stutzman is appealing to the Supreme Court again. Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, who are representing Stutzman, criticized the state court for “reissuing most of its prior decision word for word.” —S.W.

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Steve West

Steve is a legal correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, Wake Forest University School of Law, and N.C. State University. He worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor and is now an attorney in private practice. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @slntplanet.

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    Posted: Wed, 09/18/2019 01:01 pm

    Sen. John Moorlach in Sacramento, Calif.

    I'll bet this guy has NEVER been investigated. The community would go after anyone who dared to check the background of a homosexual. Someone would have to come forward and I doubt they would. 

    I know of a guy who used to be a mayor that admitted he was molested by a man during Boy Scout camp. He said that it has nothing to do with the fact that he is now homosexual.

    Posted: Wed, 09/18/2019 01:11 pm

    Will the homosexual community demand that former homosexuals who are trying to shed their homosexual tendencies be put in JAIL? 

    What scares the homosexual community about someone changing their mind?