February 15, 2019

How New York City Is Censoring Conversations between Psychologists and Their Patients

Sarah Kramer

The government does not belong in a therapist’s office.

But a New York City ordinance puts the government squarely in that position, censoring what therapists are free to say as they work with their patients. The New York City Council adopted this ordinance in 2018 making it illegal for any person to provide paid services that help people address unwanted same-sex attractions or confusion over gender identity – under the threat of substantial fines.

It’s an amazingly one-sided law. Under this law, a counselor is free to help a patient explore, develop, or gain comfort with same-sex attractions or almost any gender identity imaginable (transgender activists claim gender is a “spectrum” or “Mobius”). But the law prohibits a counselor from assisting a patients who wishes to reduce same-sex attraction or achieve comfort in a gender identity that matches her or his physical body. The fines include $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for any violations after that.

Some states have adopted similar laws censoring what therapists can say when working with minors, and some of those laws are currently being challenged as unconstitutional. But New York City’s new ordinance is the most far-reaching and intrusive, as it reaches in to censor what can be said in an intensely private and voluntary counseling conversation between two adults.

This New York City ordinance not only threatens the free speech of counselors, but it takes options away from patients who are seeking guidance that is consistent with their religious beliefs.

That’s why Dr. Dovid Schwartz, a licensed psychotherapist and member of the Lubavitcher Orthodox Jewish Community in Brooklyn, is challenging this ordinance. Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit on his behalf.

Dr. Schwartz regularly serves patients who want his help changing or overcoming same-sex attraction. The majority of Dr. Schwartz’s clients share his faith and often desire to experience opposite-sex attraction so they can marry, form a natural family, and live consistently with their Orthodox Jewish faith.

These are beliefs about human sexuality and the possibility of change that are shared not only by many Jews, but also by many Christians and Muslims. The government must respect their freedom to discuss those beliefs, and pursue those goals.

That discussion is exactly what Dr. Schwartz offers his patients. In his psychotherapeutic services, Dr. Schwartz simply listens to his patients, talks with them, and offers suggestions. As a result of his services, a number of patients have pursued and achieved their personal goals.

Dr. Schwartz should not be forced, in the course of those very private discussions, to be used by the government as a tool to impose the viewpoint on human sexuality that the New York City Council prefers.

And, even beyond that, the government has no business telling people what personal goals they can or can’t pursue. If a man wants to marry a woman and have a family, that’s his choice. The government cannot keep him from pursuing that goal simply because they disagree with it.

The bottom line is that all Americans, secular and religious, deserve the right to private conversations with the trusted counselors they choose, free from government censorship.

We should all be able to agree with that.


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