FL Counseling Ban on Trial

Oct 17, 2018

EST PALM BEACH, FL – Liberty Counsel is presenting oral argument tomorrow in federal court against the City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County for their adoption of City Ordinance 5407 and County Ordinance 2017-046, which prohibit minors from receiving voluntary counseling from licensed professionals to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or gender confusion.

Liberty Counsel filed suit and represents Dr. Robert Otto, LMFT, Dr. Julie Hamilton, LMFT, and their minor clients. These counselors provide life-saving counsel to minors who desperately desire to conform their attractions, behaviors, and gender confusion to their sincerely held religious beliefs. The sacred trust between counselors and clients establishes a unique relationship that permits the clients to inform the counselors of their goals and receive counseling consistent with those goals. However, Boca Raton and Palm Beach County are invading the private space of counselors and clients, forcing the government into the therapeutic alliance, and violating the privacy and fundamental rights of counselors and clients.

These ordinances violate the First Amendment by imposing a viewpoint and content-based prohibition on the speech of licensed professionals in the city and county who offer change counseling. The ordinances also blatantly violate the minors’ rights under the Florida Patient’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, which permits counselors to offer and clients to receive treatment methods that they believe are in the clients’ best interest. In Florida, the state legislature has sole authority to enact laws regulating mental health professionals. Local governments, such as cities and counties, cannot enact ordinances that contradict state laws. The Florida Legislature has had proposals to ban change counseling introduced, but has failed to pass them. Boca Raton and Palm Beach County have no authority to enact these unconstitutional bans. 

“These ordinances are unconstitutional and cause harm to countless minors in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “These ordinances are a gross intrusion into the fundamental rights of counselors and clients. Every person should have access to the counsel of their choice. No government has the authority to prohibit a form of counseling simply because it does not like the religious or moral beliefs of a particular counselor or client,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics. Liberty Counsel provides broadcast quality TV interviews via Hi-Def Skype and LTN at no cost.