On Wednesday, a devoutly Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist who is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the city of New York over its new ordinance preventing therapists from treating patients who want to follow their religious faith and rid themselves of unwanted sexual desires such as same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria.
As the Alliance Defending Freedom reports, Dr. Dovid Schwartz, who has practided his profession for 40 years, is challenging the 2018 law that made it illegal for someone to be paid for offering services that “seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or seek to change a person’s gender identity to conform to the sex of such individual that was recorded at birth.” ADF notes, “Notably, the law only prohibits counsel in one direction—assisting a patient who desires to reduce same-sex attraction or achieve comfort in a gender identity that matches her or his physical body. … By contrast, counseling that steers a patient towards a gender identity different than his or her physical body is permitted.”
The lawsuit’s introduction reads:
The patient-psychotherapist relationship requires giving patients the ability to express themselves without fear of reprisal and allowing therapists the freedom to respond to that expression with understanding; it is the last possible place where the government should be dictating what topics or ideas are off limits. Yet New York City’s recently enacted Law Number 2018/22 (“the Counseling Censorship Law”), reaches into this confidential relationship to prohibit the discussion and exploration of ideas—and even the patient’s own, personal goals—to which the New York City Council objects.
Specifically, if an adult patient is experiencing—and does not wish to experience—same-sex attractions, or a sense of gender identity that is discordant with his or her biological sex, the Counseling Censorship Law threatens fines as high as $10,000 against a psychotherapist if he or she offers any thoughts—or indeed says anything at all—to assist the patient in pursuing a personally chosen goal of reducing same-sex attraction, increasing sexual attraction to the opposite sex, or achieving comfort in a gender identity congruent with the patient’s physical body and reproductive nature.
As a result, the Counseling Censorship Law prevents adult patients from hearing ideas and suggestions from skilled professionals that the patients want to hear, and from obtaining help from such professionals to pursue the attractions, identity, relationships, and indeed life that they choose for themselves and desire to pursue.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Roger Brooks stated, “All Americans, secular and religious, deserve the right to private conversations, free from government censorship. It is difficult to imagine a more direct violation of freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment than New York City’s attempt to regulate the private sessions between an adult and his counselor. The city council’s regulation is unprecedented and threatens to stand between Dr. Schwartz’s patients and the lives they choose to pursue. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in its 2018 NIFLA decision, ‘[T]he people lose when the government is the one dictating which ideas should prevail.’”
ADF legal counsel Jeana Hallock added, “Nearly all of Dr. Schwartz’s patients share his faith, and they value his counsel about issues of sexuality and family in part because his perspective is grounded in their shared Jewish faith and respect for Torah teachings. The government has no right to dictate the personal goals an adult pursues with his or her therapist. If, for example, a woman’s life goal includes marrying a husband and starting a family, and she seeks input from a counselor who shares her beliefs, the government simply has no business monitoring these conversations or interfering with these goals, regardless of the city council’s views about them. The counselor-patient relationship is a sensitive one, privileged under state and federal law, and the city council seriously oversteps its role when it tries to control those conversations, or imposes government views on patients or therapists.”
The law put in place, according to The Alliance Defending Freedom, is the first that censors speech between counselors and adult patients. The ordinance penalizes someone who violates it as much as $10,000 in fines per client. The Alliance Defending Freedom notes, “Most of Dr. Schwartz’s clients are devout Jews who wish to follow their Jewish faith and teachings of the Torah, and as such, wish to pursue treatment that will allow them to live out their faith.”