New York City, having pledged unyielding allegiance to the most extreme leftist agenda in America in a host of recent moves, opened another front in the culture wars last year when its politically-correct City Council passed what it calls a “conversion therapy ban.”
In reality, it is a counseling censorship law. It bars psychotherapists and social workers from counseling patients who seek professional help in overcoming unwanted homosexual feelings or gender identity issues to work toward that goal.
Many jurisdictions across the country have banned so-called “conversion therapy” for minors, but New York’s law goes even further by covering patients of all ages. In other words, fully enfranchised adults who are struggling with these feelings are now prohibited from choosing a counselor and an approach to counseling that best comports with their religious beliefs. Practitioners found violating the law are subject to heavy fines.
This intrusive legislation not only tramples the religious liberties and free speech rights of Torah-observant Jews and other people of faith – patients as well as therapists; it brazenly attempts to entrench liberal values into the highly personal and private sphere of counseling. Unsurprisingly, the City Council has placed no ban on practitioners helping patients embrace their unwanted feelings and impulses.
As reported in these pages last week, one of the professionals caught in the crossfire of the city’s censorship campaign is Dr. Dovid Schwartz, a practicing psychologist in the Crown Heights Chabad-Lubavitch community of which he is also a member. Backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Dr. Schwartz brought suit against the city in Brooklyn federal court, seeking to have the law struck down on constitutional grounds.
New York City has an obvious agenda here – can you spell LGBTQ? – but let’s be clear: This is not a gay rights issue. Freedom to navigate one’s life in the direction one wishes is a right that all New Yorkers should want to safeguard. A good therapist is one who cares more about his patient’s wishes, values, and priorities than the zeitgeist of the day. This law “threatens…the counselor’s right to say what he believes to be true, and the patient’s right to hear ideas he wants to hear,” says ADF senior counsel Roger Brooks.
The city makes much of conversion therapy’s reportedly low success rate. Would those same lawmakers deny desperate cancer patients access to a therapy just because it might not cure them? The city further claims that conversion therapy is harmful. The practice remains tainted by its association with such methods as electro-shock therapy, but these methods were abandoned long ago and are now mere red herrings in this debate.
What the city has outlawed here is nothing more than traditional talk therapy, with a desired end-goal – which the plaintiff admits is sometimes achieved and sometimes not – that is offensive to the sensibilities of liberal lawmakers. As we witnessed with the recent roasting and demotion of City Council member Kalman Yeger, if what you stand for doesn’t sit well with the ruling intelligentsia, they will attempt to punish you into silence.
A hearing on the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction will take place next Wednesday, June 19, at 11 a.m. before Judge Raymond J. Dearie in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (at 225 Cadman Plaza East in Brooklyn, courtroom 10a south).
We urge members of our community and others concerned about this unprecedented governmental assault on religious freedom and free speech to come show their support for Dr. Schwartz – and their outrage at the city’s latest act of paternalistic and liberal overreach.