Supreme Court Sidesteps Change Therapy Case

Feb 29, 2016

Washington, DC – Today the United States Supreme Court declined to take up Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit challenging a New Jersey law prohibiting counselors from providing, and minors from receiving, counseling to reduce unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity. By refusing to hear the challenge, minors in New Jersey now have no freedom to seek counseling consistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Moreover, by allowing the case to stand, there remains a conflict among the federal circuit courts of appeal on the First Amendment speech claims of the counselors and the clients.
The case was originally set for conference before all nine Justices in January, but rather than deciding at that time whether to hear the case, the Court reset the matter for conference on February 19. When the Court reset the case for a second conference, Supreme Court watchers began speculating that the Court would decide to hear the case, and thus the case became closely watched by Supreme Court experts. In the meantime, Justice Scalia died unexpectedly. Since his public viewing occurred on February 19, the follow up conference was moved to last Friday. One can only speculate whether Justice Scalia’s absence on the Court contributed to the announcement today not to hear the case.

Liberty Counsel challenged New Jersey’s prohibition on change therapy on behalf of a minor, who was receiving such counseling, and his parents, who desperately wanted to help their son live his life according to the dictates of his conscience and his religious beliefs and values. Prior to receiving this counseling, John Doe dealt with daily thoughts of suicide and depression. As a result of his counseling, however, John Doe was thriving and never dealt with anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide.

“In a country born on the will to be free, it is a sad day when that nation turns its back on the most vulnerable among us and refuses to protect the very freedom upon which this nation was founded,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Our client’s life was saved by this counseling, and now he will not be able to receive it because activists seek to completely silence the viewpoint that Christ can change lives and that individuals can receive freedom from their unwanted same-sex attractions,” Staver continued.

“As a result of today’s decision, our client – whose life was literally saved by this counseling – has been told by his government that it does not care about that or about his values,” said Staver. “We pray for our client and countless other minors like him in New Jersey who have now been denied their basic freedom of self-determination,” Staver said.

“Supreme Court experts were closely watching this case because there were signs that the Court would take up the matter to address the important First Amendment claims and resolve the conflicts between this case and other cases, including a conflict with a decision last year from the Supreme Court that was favorable to our position. One can only speculate whether the absence of Justice Scalia is already being felt by this unexpected turn of events. Replacing Justice Scalia with someone who shares his view that the original meaning of the Constitution should be respected is critical to maintaining the rule of law,” concluded Staver.