WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a pastor’s appeal challenging California’s ban on “conversion therapy” and counseling youth to resist romantic desires toward the same sex.
The nine justices did not comment in rejecting the case, which has been battled in the court system for the past five years.
As previously reported, in 2012, as the ban was being contemplated in the legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown remarked that he hoped reparative therapy would be forever heaved into “the dustbin of quackery.” The bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance, claimed that counseling and therapy aimed at helping youth turn from the homosexual lifestyle is the equivalent of “psychological child abuse.”
The legislation prohibited any type of “conversion therapy,” “sexual orientation therapy,” “reparative therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts,” by licensed therapists and counselors, but did not apply to those who “provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and do not seek to change sexual orientation.”
It pointed to statements from the American School Counselor Association, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others.
“No one should stand idly by while children are being psychologically abused, and anyone who forces a child to try to change their sexual orientation must understand this is unacceptable,” Lieu wrote in a written statement.
Soon after the bill became law, the Pacific Justice Institute and the Florida-based Liberty Counsel filed suit in hopes of obtaining an injunction against its enforcement. A psychiatrist, a licensed therapist who also oversees a church counseling ministry, and a resident who struggles with same-sex attraction and has been helped by the therapy were all represented in the suit.
Plaintiff Donald Welch, who serves at Skyline Wesleyan Church in LaMesa, contended that the law subjects him to potential discipline by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences if he counsels youth in accordance with the Scriptures.
“In his pastoral role, Dr. Welch is prohibited from encouraging, enabling or validating sexual beliefs or behaviors contrary to the teachings of the Church. Dr. Welch’s clientele includes minors who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual and questioning youth,” the lawsuit noted, pointing to conflict between his job as a church counselor and the law.
The Supreme Court declined to take the case in 2014, but PJI won a restraining order in the lower courts that lasted for 18 months until the Ninth Circuit overturned the injunction. PJI then appealed to the Supreme Court in January.
The questions the court was asked to consider included: “May a state bar ministers from inculcating or encouraging certain religious values in youth, when those ministers are also licensed by the state as mental health providers?” and “Are minors’ rights to privacy, autonomy, and self-definition violated by a state’s determination that they may only seek to reduce same-sex attraction on their own or with the assistance of unlicensed individuals, and they may not seek professional help to do so?”
PJI, while expressing disappointment with the court’s refusal, vowed to continue the fight.
“We are deeply disappointed by today’s announcement, because it means young people in California and elsewhere will not be able to get the professional help they seek, due to political correctness,” President Brad Dacus said in a statement on Monday.
“This debate will continue, though, as other states consider similar bans on counselors’ speech, and new court challenges will be filed against such bans,” he continued. “Ultimately, we believe the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning will not stand the test of time, and we are committed to this battle for the long haul.”