May 30, 2013
Liberty Counsel Vows to Fight Against NJ Bill Banning Change Therapy
Trenton, NJ – As the New Jersey Senate prepares to vote today on S2278, a bill to prohibit sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), Liberty Counsel vows to vindicate the rights of counselors, minors, and parents should S2278 be enacted and signed by the Governor. Yesterday Liberty Counsel sent letters to New Jersey state senators, asking them to reject this unconstitutional law that tramples the fundamental rights of counselors, minors, and parents.
Liberty Counsel is currently litigating a case challenging California Senate Bill 1172, which is virtually identical to S2278, and has obtained an injunction against that law from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
S2278 prohibits only one viewpoint regarding change counseling and therefore constitutes viewpoint discrimination. No viewpoint-based restriction on private speech has ever been upheld. The Supreme Court ruled that "the First Amendment forbids the government to regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others." (City Council of L.A. v. Taxpayers for Vincent).
"We strongly encourage you to reject this overreaching bill and to refuse to vote for a law that blatantly infringes upon the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs and that tramples on the fundamental rights of parents in New Jersey to direct the upbringing of their children," wrote Daniel J. Schmid, Litigation Counsel.
"Many activists, who are trying to force this unconstitutional muzzle onto counselors, point to political and ideological opinions unsupported by evidence or studies," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "In fact, not one of the organizations mentioned in S2278 actually prohibits change therapy. These unsupported opinions do not satisfy the Supreme Court's mandate that the government present 'more than mere anecdote and suspicion' when introducing regulations that infringe on First Amendment liberties," Staver noted.
S2278 relies upon the APA Task Force Report. However, the report was admittedly inconclusive as to the effectiveness of SOCE counseling. The APA Report says, "sexual orientation issues in children are virtually unexamined," and it recognized that "there is a dearth of scientifically sound research on the safety of SOCE," and "[e]arly and recent research studies provide no clear indication of the prevalence of harmful outcomes."
The Senate should reject this transparently unconstitutional law. It tramples the fundamental rights of counselors and clients, and it destroys the ability of patients to seek, and counselors to provide, counseling in accordance with their sincere desires and religious beliefs. It also runs roughshod over the fundamental rights of parents.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.
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