Liberty Counsel Defends Previously Suicidal Boy from "Big Brother"

Oct 3, 2014

Philadelphia, PA  Liberty Counsel submitted a brief to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on behalf of a fifteen-year-old, previously suicidal teenager caught in a bureaucratic quagmire.

Because of a verbally abusive, absentee father, John Doe developed a dislike of men and boys when he was nine years old. At ten, he began dressing like a girl, expressing feminine mannerisms, and exhibiting obsessive-compulsive traits. During this time, this young man began struggling with thoughts of suicide. At twelve, John began having same-sex attractions. Because those attractions did not align with his religious beliefs, he experienced significant psychological distress, and his thoughts of suicide became virtually a constant. At 13, he first acted on those thoughts and attempted to throw himself off a hotel balcony while on vacation with his parents.

Seeking help from the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, John Doe asked his counselor to help him address the anxiety, distress, and suicidal ideation arising from his sexual attractions, so that he could act consistently with his values and religious beliefs. After three years, John Doe has experienced tremendous benefits: improved relationships with parents and peers, reduced same-sex attractions, and increased confidence in his masculinity. Most importantly, however, his conversations with his counselor have helped him eliminate his suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

John wants to continue his therapy and understand the underlying causes and background information of his issues, but because of A3371, John cannot be treated by any mental health professionals in New Jersey. Governor Christie signed A3371 on August 19, 2013, prohibiting licensed mental health counselors in New Jersey from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) with minors.

"The New Jersey Legislature and Governor Chris Christie have burst into the counseling room of John, and minors struggling like him, and told them you will hear what we want you to hear: same-sex sexual attractions are good, natural, and normal." Staver continued, "Essentially, they have told these children, 'Your psychological distress and suicidal attempts be damned!'" Staver said. "The audacity of a politician to put his political ambitions over the lives of children is astounding!"

"Talk therapy to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attraction is not radical, but telling a child that his feelings do not matter is. Even the American Psychological Associations 2009 Task Force Report admits sexual orientation, behavior, and identity are fluid, and thus capable of change. If that change is going to help a child overcome suicide, who has the right to deny him?" Staver asked.

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.


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