I have good news, bad news and exciting news.
First, the bad news. By a vote of 137 to 14 just before 3 p.m. today, the MA House of Representatives passed the Counseling Ban. This is a disappointment, but not a surprise given how powerful the LGBTQ lobby is on Beacon Hill.
The GOOD news is that the section of the bill that labeled Biblical counseling on issues of human sexuality as “child abuse” was dropped at the last minute. This is an important victory for parental rights and demonstrates that your efforts yesterday made a difference. Thank you! Although I’m glad to see the MA House no longer thinks counseling is the same as “child abuse,” the bill still prevents therapists from giving objective recommendations and counseling to the children and families they serve.
Here’s the exciting news. As I stated in our press release from earlier today (see below), we are already working with attorneys at Liberty Counsel and Alliance Defending Freedom to challenge this bill should it become law. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in NIFLA v. Becerra undermines the legal basis upon which the authors of the Counseling Ban relied. This means that it is likely the legislation will eventually be struck down as an unconstitutional state restriction on the free speech of mental health professionals. Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling may very well lead to new or renewed lawsuits in the dozen or so other states that have passed counseling bans, and I am optimistic that we may have them all tossed out by the Court. And by the way, I just learned that Justice Kennedy is retiring this summer. So, Lord willing, by the time this case gets to the Supreme Court, there should be a solid five vote majority for freedom.
Thank you again for all of your help in doing what we can now to protect families, and I will keep you posted on our efforts going forward. This bill still has to clear the MA Senate and the Governor’s desk, so please continue to pray. Today’s partial victory on this bill in removing the child abuse provision shows that we can make a difference.
For our families,
Massachusetts Family Institute | News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Lena Ready | [email protected] | 781.569.0400
H 4014 Speech Ban on Counselors is Unconstitutional
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
WOBURN – Massachusetts Family Institute opposes House Bill 4014, the Counseling Ban, and any laws that restrict the ability of licensed counselors to help clients make personal life changes related to their sexuality or identity. H. 4014’s denial of treatment options for children undermines their dignity and integrity. The freedom for parents to seek and decide what counseling is best for their child, without interference from politicians, is a basic liberty that must be upheld.
Similar counseling bans in other states have already been recognized as violating the free speech of therapists and their patients. Multiple federal lawsuits were filed against nearly identical legislation banning talk therapy in California and New Jersey. The efforts of therapists and their clients in those cases stalled as judges ruled that the “professional speech” between mental health professionals and the families they serve was not protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. However, yesterday morning the Supreme Court of the United States said that it is.
The majority’s opinion rejected the flawed analysis of those earlier decisions upholding bans on talk therapy, declaring, “Speech is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by ‘professionals.’” We applaud that ruling, and we welcome the reassuring and common-sense explanation the Court gave for its decision. They reaffirmed that, “Doctors help patients make deeply personal decisions, and their candor is crucial.”
We agree. The legislature must not be in the business of putting a gag on our counselors. The Supreme Court also declared that “when the government polices the content of professional speech, it can fail to ‘preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail.’” That is exactly what we are asking the legislature to do here today, preserve our freedom to speak the truth.
I am encouraged to announce that the head of Liberty Counsel, the firm that is representing the therapists and clients in the cases from California and New Jersey, sent a letter last night to Speaker DeLeo, informing him that yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling “undermines the legal basis upon which the authors of House Bill 4014 have relied.” Our representatives need to understand that as of 24 hours ago, this bill is likely an unconstitutional state restriction on the free speech of mental health professionals.
Liberty Counsel is no stranger to government overreach in Massachusetts. They were the national law firm that represented the parents of Justina Pelletier four years ago when she was legally abducted from her family because of a dispute over medical treatment between her parents and the state Department of Children and Families. Instead of learning from that national embarrassment for Massachusetts, the drafters of H. 4014 have added a provision that would expand DCF’s authority to remove children from their homes. If a child receives the counseling this bill bans, that treatment is labeled “child abuse,” and DCF is authorized to take custody of the child under the same statute that tore Justina from her parents for over a year. Not even the counseling ban in California has this alarming language. H. 4014 creates a new and chilling assault on the rights of parents.
Politicians have no business dictating decisions that individuals and families have always been free to make without government intrusion. Politically motivated bans on counseling hurt people who want and need the help they are being denied.
We will continue to closely scrutinize any developments on this legislation and educate the public on the threats to their free speech and parental rights that it represents. We are currently working with attorneys at Liberty Counsel, as well as Alliance Defending Freedom, who successfully litigated yesterday’s Supreme Court victory on “professional speech,” to explore all options available in defending therapists and the families they serve from this unconstitutional legislation.
Massachusetts Family Institute is a non-profit research, education and public policy organization dedicated to strengthening the institution of the family and affirming the Judeo-Christian values upon which the family is based.