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A decision by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to meddle with what counselors are allowed to tell their clients is a far worse scandal than inappropriately closing bridge lanes as a political payback, according to a legal team fighting on behalf of both counselors and patients in the state.

Christie has come under fire in the last week for the apparently malicious maneuver by staff members who reportedly created a massive traffic jam to punish a mayor who refused to endorse Christie’s last run for governor.

Christie has disavowed knowledge of the stunt and fired one of his staff members over the situation. He spent nearly two hours in a news conference denying that he knew what was going on.

But his recent signature on a state legislative bill, A3371, suggests he actually knows about the other scandal – the ban on counseling young people when they want to eliminate same-sex attractions.

“A3371 is far more scandalous than the George Washington Bridge lane closure,” said Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. “Gov. Christie signed a bill that blocks licensed counselors from providing and young people from receiving any counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, mannerisms, or identity. This law is causing immediate harm to young people and to licensed counselors.”

It’s not even logical, because it bans only therapy moving kids in one direction, from same-sex attractions to a traditional heterosexual perspective.

Encouraging homosexuality still is well within their authority, Staver noted in the opening brief filed in the case now pending before a federal appeals court.

“The fact that change is one direction is permitted but change in the other direction is not undermines the state’s claim that it seeks to prevent harm,” the brief explains. “Also, A3371 continues to permit SOCE (sexual orientation change) counseling by unlicensed counselors, which further undermines its purported interest in prevent harm.

“The state cannot ban what it erroneously deems is harmful in one setting while allowing the exact same alleged harm to go unregulated in another setting.”

The issue is counseling for youth who want to lose same-sex attractions, which may have been caused by a variety of influences. California first adopted a ban on counseling to help those young people, and New Jersey is following behind.

California’s ban already is in the courts, and now New Jersey’s is heading to the appellate level, after a lower court decided that licensed New Jersey counselors do not have any First Amendment protections.

“A3371 invades the sacrosanct relationship between counselor and client by prohibiting therapeutic conversations that assist a minor to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity while permitting conversations that affirm or approve them,” Staver told the court in the brief.

“A3371 is a textbook example of viewpoint discrimination. The legislation explicitly prohibits licensed counselors from providing, and clients from receiving, any counsel to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, or identity,” the Staver told the court. “Counselors can only affirm same-sex attractions even though the clients insist that such attractions are unwanted and they want to change. Depriving these young people of beneficial counsel of their choice is dangerous and is causing immediate harm to our clients.”

The New Jersey fight now is in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was brought on behalf of counselors Tara King and Ronald Newman, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Several individuals were cited in the case, but the court document specifically noted that while they would suffer under Christie’s adopted law, they did not deserve the exposure of being publicly identified.

The appellate court brief notes that King’s clients developed unwanted same-sex attractions after being sexually molested; and they’ve suffered because of the conflict between their religious beliefs and values and those unwanted feelings. Counseling to leave those feelings behind has “alleviated those conflicts and improved the clients’ health.”

But Christie has banned that therapy, returning those clients, potentially, to their suffering.

The brief argues that the state is violating plaintiff’s speech rights, goes beyond permissible professional regulation, and is mistaken when it concludes talk therapy is not protected speech.

Staver called change therapy bans “a flagrant violation of a client’s right to self-determination.”

“This is a horrible government intrusion into personal health care and counseling choices. Driven by ideology and not science, this law banning change therapy will seriously harm children and their parents,” Staver said.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the First and 14th Amendments.

It notes that the state legislature relied on probably faulty or at least incomplete information from the American Psychological Association regarding the issue.

An APA task force looked at the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic intervention for adults. But the study itself noted that children were not represented reasonably in the study.

As such, the APA said, “sexual orientation issues in children are virtually unexamined.”

However, the New Jersey law specifically singles out children, banning any sexual orientation change efforts with anyone under 18.

In California, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Aug. 29 upheld the law, but the plaintiffs are seeking a rehearing.

The California case, also being handled by Liberty Counsel, cites precedents that reject “the statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority” and affirm that “the right to family association includes the right of parents to make important medical decisions for their children, and of children to have those decisions made by their parents rather than the state.”

Staver said legislators and judges in California “essentially barged into the private therapy rooms of victimized young people and told them that their confusion, caused by the likes of a Jerry Sandusky abuser, is normal and they should pursue their unwanted and dangerous same-sex sexual attractions and behavior, regardless of whether those minors desire their religious beliefs to trump their unwanted attractions.”

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, called the earlier decision a “dark day for those who believe in the First Amendment and the rights of parents over the proper upbringing of their children.”

“Make no mistake, we are not finished in our efforts to overturn this outrageous legislation,” he said.

California was the first state to approve such First Amendment limitations, and when New Jersey followed, WND columnist Matt Barber expressed concern.

“The connection between homosexual abuse and ‘gay identity’ is undeniable. Consider this: Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that homosexual men are ‘at least three times more likely to report CSA (childhood sexual abuse)’ than heterosexual men,” he wrote. “Moreover, the Archives of Sexual Behavior – no bastion of conservatism – determined in a 2001 study that nearly half of all gay-identified men were molested by a homosexual pedophile: ’46 percent of homosexual men and 22 percent of homosexual women reported having been molested by a person of the same gender. This contrasts to only 7 percent of heterosexual men and 1 percent of heterosexual women reporting having been molested by a person of the same gender’ noted the study.”

He said besides the fact the laws violate the Constitution, the underlying claim isn’t true.

“For instance, both New Jersey Democrats and Christie cited the American Psychological Association, or APA, as justification for this gross infringement on the right of self-determination. Although, no doubt, the highly liberal APA supports this and similar Sandusky Laws for political reasons, the group’s own task force on change therapy – led entirely by members who themselves are ‘gay’-identified or known political activists – has had to admit, nonetheless, that homosexuality itself ‘refers to feelings and self-concept,’” he explained.

“Here’s the kicker: The APA also acknowledged that there is no evidence whatsoever that change therapy harms minors,” he said.

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