Kirsten Andersen

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Federal judge upholds New Jersey’s ban on reparative therapy for minors

Kirsten Andersen
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TRENTON, November 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A federal judge has ruled that a New Jersey law barring therapists from trying to eliminate homosexual urges in children does not violate therapists’ freedom of speech or religion.

Two New Jersey-based therapists, along with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the American Association of Christian Counselors, had sued to block the law’s enforcement, arguing that that it violates therapists’ free speech rights by prohibiting them from offering their minor patients reparative therapy designed to help them overcome unwanted same-sex attraction. 

But on Friday, Judge Freda L. Wolfson dismissed the therapists’ case, claiming that the ban “on its face does not target speech, and ‘counseling’ is not entitled to special constitutional protection merely because it is primarily carried out through talk therapy.”

Wolfson said that because therapists are still allowed to publicly or privately state their opinions about reparative therapy, just as long as they don’t practice it on minors, the ban regulates conduct, not speech.  To rule in the therapists’ favor, she said, would “[run] counter to the longstanding principle that a state generally may enact laws rationally regulating professionals, including those providing medicine and mental health services.”

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But Arthur Goldberg, a spokesman for JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), a Jewish reparative therapy group, disagrees with Wolfson’s ruling.  In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Goldberg said he believes the ban violates not just the constitutional rights of therapists themselves, but also the rights of their patients.

“If a minor has unwanted same-sex attraction and wants help, the only help he can get [under the law] is to go to someone who’s going to be gay-affirmative,” Goldberg told LifeSiteNews.  “That doesn’t make any sense.  He should have a choice.”

Mat Staver, an attorney with Liberty Counsel who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said his group plans to appeal the judge’s decision.

Staver has also filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of a teen with unwanted same-sex attraction and his family, who want the ban overturned so he can continue his treatment. 

“Before states began passing legislation banning change therapy, the treatment was driven by the minor’s desired outcome,” said Staver. “Our client and his family were on the way to that desired outcome, until Governor Christie signed a law prohibiting further treatment.”

“Governor Christie has no right coming into the therapy session of this young man and telling him what kind of counseling he can receive,” Staver added. “This is a horrible government intrusion into personal healthcare and counseling choices. Driven by ideology and not science, this law banning change therapy will seriously harm children and their parents.”



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