Help for Those Who Want It

Florida Court Overrules Therapy Ban

In 2017, following the example of many other parts of the country, Palm Beach County, Florida and the City of Boca Raton passed legislation banning therapy intended to help a person overcome same-sex attraction. Therapists are not allowed to meet with a patient and help steer him or her towards a desired heterosexual orientation. Instead, they must entirely support the patient in their condition. Just recently, however, a court ruling overturned the ban on First Amendment grounds. “In striking down bans on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with First Amendment free speech against LGBT dogma,” said Jennifer Morse of the Ruth Institute.

The legislative bans were deemed infringement on therapists’ First Amendment rights, even going so far as to ban even speech therapy that would imply SOCE. Morse attributes bans like these to the efforts of higher-up ideologues who are seeking to push this agenda into the far reaches of American life. “Sexual Revolutionary activists have successfully persuaded local governments to adopt these bans,” she said. “

The argument against SOCE hinges on the claim that this mode of therapy is psychologically harmful. This claim furthermore depends on the idea of sexual orientation being a fixed characteristic from birth, rather than something that can actually change with the right counselling and support. It is not simply an orientation being challenged, therefore, but the patient’s fundamental identity. Morse went to point out the dangers of this view. “Without conclusive evidence, LGBT organizations insist the homosexuality is innate, and that individuals with same-sex attraction must accept their fate, whether they like it or not.”

The court eventually ruled that the evidence of SOCE’s harm was based less so on conclusive findings than on mere assertion and decided to favor the therapists being represented. “The question is,” the Court observed, “whether a speaker’s viewpoint determines his license to speak.” It boiled down, in the end, to the free speech of certain therapists who felt pigeonholed by an ideology they disagreed with. There are, doubtlessly, many therapists who do not hesitate to affirm their patient’s homosexual orientation. In fact, they must vastly outnumber therapists who see homosexuality as a problem to work through. Therefore, therapy bans like the ones posed in Florida represent a desire to snuff out opposing ideas rather than provide real, meaningful help to those who are same sex attracted but don’t want to be. It would be different if those dealing with same sex attraction were coerced into SOCE therapy. This case was not about that, but about therapists being censored by ideological regulations that oppose both their own views and their patients’ wishes. The court in Florida recognized this and deliberated accordingly.

It is encouraging to see a court uphold free speech in a year continually characterized by the influence of strident ideologies. If you don’t agree with someone’s views, then fine. If a patient doesn’t like a therapist, she can leave to go to a more suitable one. The problem arises when there’s coercion to think and speak a certain way, shutting down opposing points of view. Those kinds of efforts undermine free speech in such a way that people will be more and more afraid to speak and think for themselves. “This is a huge victory for counselors and their clients to choose the counsel of their choice free of political censorship from government idealogues,” said Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel, the organization that represented the therapists in the Florida case.  A victory indeed.

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