TRENTON, N.J. (CN) - The American Association of Christian Counselors sued Gov. Chris Christie, challenging a state law that protects children from "sexual orientation" therapy.
The plaintiffs claim New Jersey Assembly Bill 3371 is an unconstitutional restraint of speech.
Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit are Tara King Ed.D. individually and on behalf of her patients; Ronald Newman Ph.D. individually and on behalf of his patients; the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH); and American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).
The complaint states: "Plaintiffs bring this civil action to challenge the constitutionality of New Jersey Assembly Bill Number 3371, 'An Act concerning the protection of minors from attempts to change sexual orientation,' ('A3371'), and to prevent A3371 from violating their respective federal and state constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and the minor patient. This law went into full effect immediately, upon being signed by Governor Christie on August 19, 2013, and thus time is of the essence to obtain judicial relief because
Plaintiffs, their clients, and the members of the plaintiff associations are currently suffering immediate and irreparable injury to their most cherished constitutional liberties."
It continues: "Plaintiffs Dr. Tara King, Dr. Ronald Newman, and other NARTH members in and outside of New Jersey, as well as AACC members in and outside of New Jersey who either engage in or refer to someone who engages in licensed counseling that honors a client's autonomy and right to self-determination to prioritize their religious and moral values above unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, or identities and who want to align their values with a licensed counselor who can address these values, have the First Amendment and state constitutional rights as licensed counselors, as do their clients, to engage in, receive and exercise constitutionally protected speech and religious freedom, which includes their clients' right of self-determination, their right to provide and receive effective counsel based on their religious and moral values, and their right to counsel their clients without governmentally imposed and unconstitutional viewpoint-based restrictions.
"By preventing minors from seeking counseling from to address the conflict about or questions concerning their unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, and identities and from seeking to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, or identities through counseling such as sexual orientation change efforts ('SOCE'), A3371 denies or severely impairs plaintiffs' clients and all minors their right to self-determination, their right to prioritize their religious and moral values, and their right to receive effective counseling consistent with those values.
"By denying plaintiffs' clients and all minors access to counseling from licensed counselors that can help minors who desire to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity, A3371 infringes on the fundamental rights of plaintiffs' clients, and the rights of the parents of plaintiffs' clients to direct the upbringing and education of their children, which includes the right to meet each child's individual counseling, developmental, and spiritual needs.
"By prohibiting them from engaging in any efforts that seek to eliminate or reduce unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity, even when the client, the parents, and the psychotherapist all consent to the counseling and therapeutic intervention, A3371 also violates the constitutional rights of licensed mental health counselors, including plaintiffs Dr. King, Dr. Newman, and other members of NARTH and AACC, who practice SOCE counseling or who refer to someone who does practice SOCE counseling.
"Despite the value and benefit that plaintiffs have provided by offering SOCE counseling, Defendants have passed and are enforcing A3371 to stop all SOCE counseling by licensed professionals, which is causing immediate and irreparable harm to all plaintiffs and plaintiffs' clients, including the counselors and their clients represented by the plaintiff associations.
"A3371 harms minors, their parents/guardians, and licensed counselors by prohibiting minors and their parents/guardians from obtaining the counseling services they choose, after receiving full disclosure and providing informed consent, to resolve or reduce unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, or identity and harms counselors by placing them in a Catch-22 in which they will be forced to choose between violating ethical codes by complying with A3371 or violating the law by failing to comply with A3371.
"By denying minors the opportunity to pursue a particular course of action that can most effectively help them address the conflicts between their desire to be free of unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity and their experience of feeling same-sex attractions, behavior, or identity, A3371 is causing those minors confusion and anxiety over same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, and identity that the minors must balance, resolve, and/or eliminate, and it is infringing on their free speech and religious liberty rights.
"Consequently, plaintiffs seek preliminary and permanent injunctive relief enjoining defendants from enforcing A3371 because it violates: (1) the rights of plaintiffs and their clients to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion, guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and (2) the rights of plaintiffs and their patients to liberty of speech and free exercise and enjoyment of religion, guaranteed by Article I, §§ 3, 5, and 6 of the New Jersey Constitution, and (3) the Fourteenth Amendment rights of the parents of plaintiffs' clients to direct the upbringing of their children.
"Plaintiffs also seek declaratory relief from this court declaring that A3371 is unconstitutional on its face and as applied."
The plaintiffs are represented by Demetrios Stratis, with Liberty Counsel, of Lynchburg, Va.
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