The head of Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice has doubled down on his agency’s decision to dismiss a pastor who had been a longtime volunteer counselor to troubled youth, describing Christian counseling as “harassment.”
The state, according to the letter from Bob Hayter, commissioner of the state agency, pursues “a zero-tolerance policy against any form of sexual abuse or harassment by staff, volunteers or contractors.”
That argument justifies, he suggested, the dismissal of ordained Christian minister David Wells, who had provided voluntary spiritual counseling and mentorship to juvenile inmates under the control of the Department of Juvenile Justice for years.
The issue of the pastor’s status had been raised by officials with Liberty Counsel, who had written Hayter earlier demanding that Wells be reinstated.
Hayter’s letter did not mention Wells, but simply stated his position: that the agency “seeks to protect the rights of all youth in its care and custody regardless of sexual orientation or committing offense.”
“To this end, the department prohibits its staff and volunteers from discriminating against youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” he wrote.
He said the state has imposed a requirement that volunteers “shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
And, according the Liberty Counsel, the state requires volunteers to sign a statement promising to follow that moral statement. Without promising that he would not ever describe homosexuality as a sin, Wells was cut from the volunteer staff.
Hayter claimed, “The department’s regulation is neutral as to religion and requires respectful language toward youth by all staff, contractors and volunteers. The regulation advances a compelling government interest in developing a trusting therapeutic relationship with the children in DJJ custody which requires an environment of unconditional acceptance to further the therapeutic mission of the DJJ.”
Roger Gannam, a lawyer with Liberty Counsel, told WND on Tuesday, “It’s extremely disappointing. We think all Christians should be concerned about what has historically been welcomed in prisons – voluntary counseling sought out by these inmates.”
Now, he said, it’s being “made equivalent to harassment and discrimination. And it’s troubling because it’s just another example where all vestiges of dissent to the sexual revolution, the gay rights, are being stamped out.”
He said anyone who disagrees with homosexual advocacy is being called a “bigot.”
Gannam said whether there will be further action will depend on the pastor involved.
The lawyers wrote to Hayter that the state needed to drop its religious test for participation.
“Liberty Counsel writes regarding the blatantly unconstitutional revocation of volunteer prison minister status of ordained Christian minister David Wells, who has provided voluntary spiritual counseling and mentorship to juvenile inmates under the control of the Department of Juvenile Justice. … This revocation was issued by Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center on the basis of the April 4, 2014, DJJ Policy 912, which mandates full DJJ support of homosexuality and transvestism,” the earlier letter said.
“With no evidence of any violation of DJJ policy on Mr. Wells’ part, his volunteer status was revoked by the Warren RJDC superintendent because he could not sign a state-mandated statement that homosexuality was not ‘sinful,’ among other things,” the letter said.
Floden said, “The language contained in the department’s volunteer form is taken from DJJ’s Policy 912, Section IV.G & H, incorporated by reference in 505 KAR 1:170.”
“These requirements foster an open and inclusive culture within the department’s programs and ensure that youth in custody are free from harassment by other others based upon their sexual orientation,” she continued.
Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, said the point is that juveniles are in custody for sex crimes, and their behavior and attitudes will generate questions. Pastors, he said, need to be able to respond.
“Pastor Wells must be able to discuss what the Bible says about matters of sexuality with the juveniles he is trying to help. To remove the Bible from a pastor’s hands is like removing a scalpel from a surgeon’s hands. Without it, they cannot provide healing,” he said.
Wells had volunteered for more than 10 years at the facility under the prison ministry of Pleasant View Baptist Church in McQuady
But Supt. Gene Wade dismissed him in a terse note on July 7.
He wrote, “I must terminate your involvement as a religious volunteer serving the youth in this facility per DJJ Policy 112, Section IV, Paragraph H, (8).”
Liberty Counsel reported Policy 912, “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” states that volunteers cannot refer to homosexuality or other alternative sexual lifestyles as “sinful.”
“DJJ 912 equates the teaching of biblical morality with ‘derogatory,’ ‘biased” and ‘hateful’ speech,” added Staver.
“In so doing, the DJJ policy creates an unconstitutional, religious litmus test for DJJ access. The First Amendment prohibits the government from viewpoint discrimination. This detention center may not prohibit the expression of biblical morality simply because a few DJJ policymakers object to the Bible and its teaching,” the letter said.
Liberty Counsel’s letter noted Wells was ordered to sign a form “promising to refrain from telling any juvenile inmates that homosexuality was ‘sinful.'”
But Liberty Counsel argues the Bible “explicitly prohibits any expression of sexuality outside of the confines of man-woman marriage.”
“It recognizes that every person, regardless of personal proclivities or attractions, is separated from God because of sin, whatever form that sin may take. Many juveniles are in DJJ custody because of sexual crimes, and Mr. Wells must be able to discuss the Bible and matters of sexuality with inmates, and he therefore was unable to sign the form.”
Wells has dealt with cases ranging from “a young man who sexually abused his sister, and then killed her … to children who have been molested and sodomized by adults and older teens.”
“All of these children have asked Mr. Wells if there was any hope for them in this life, and in the life to come. He has told them without exception that Christ can, and would, forgive them, if they would repent and believe the gospel,” the letter said.
The policy even conflicts with other department policy, Liberty Counsel explained.
DJJ 345 states: “A volunteer minister, pastor or religious counselor, approved by the facility religious coordinator, shall have access to each area of the facility identified for religious programming. Clergy shall be allowed to have confidential communications with youth pursuant to clergy privilege.”
The state demand “violates the First Amendment by prescribing an official state religious ‘orthodoxy:’ now, only a religious belief that homosexuality is not ‘sinful’ may be expressed in DJJ facilities,” Liberty Counsel said.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that speech restrictions cannot be based on viewpoint, Liberty Counsel said, and the policy creates similar conflicts with the Kentucky Constitution.
The issue of counseling sexually confused youth has come up in several other states already. In California, Oregon and New Jersey, officials already have adopted rules that prohibit people from offering help during counseling sessions to juveniles who have unwanted same-sex attractions.
Several other states have rejected the idea.
Most recently, it was a judge’s “bias” toward homosexuality that prompted a jury to award about $72,000 to plaintiffs who sued under a New Jersey consumer fraud law.
They claimed their counseling sessions aimed at getting rid of unwanted same-sex attractions failed, according to a licensed counselor.
The verdict recently was announced in New Jersey for plaintiffs who brought their case, with the assistance of an organization that has been linked to domestic terror, against JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing.
The verdict was “the consequence of liberal judicial bias,” licensed professional counselor Christopher Doyle told Anglican Mainstream, a publication for orthodox Anglicans.
“Before and during the trial Judge Peter Bariso stripped JONAH of so many opportunities to really defend themselves, disqualifying five of the six expert witnesses for the defendants because their opinions contradicted the so-called mainstream view that same-sex attractions are not at all disordered, even if a client is distressed by these unwanted sexual feelings because of their sincerely held religious and spiritual beliefs,” Doyle’s report said.
A decision on whether the case will be appealed is looming, Liberty Counsel said.
“The judge’s bias against religious freedom was so ruthless that he even refused to allow JONAH’s chief attorney to mention the First Amendment freedom of religion in his closing argument,” Doyle said.
“This verdict sends a chilling message to anyone of faith who either offers counseling or wants to receive counseling to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions,” he said.
The jury verdict ordered JONAH to pay $72,400 to five plaintiffs for the fees they paid for counseling.
The case was brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which opposed racism and discrimination during its early years. However, three years ago it was linked to domestic terrorism in a court case. That was when homosexual activist Floyd Lee Corkins on Aug. 15, 2012, walked into Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C., armed with a semi-automatic pistol, 95 bullets and a sack of Chick-fil-A sandwiches with the intent, he later confessed, of killing “as many people as I could.”
Corkins admitted he picked FRC, which promotes traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs about family and sexuality, because it was listed as an “anti-gay” hate group by SPLC on its website.
The judge actually had pre-ordained the conclusion against JONAH, writing early in the case “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but – like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it – instead is outdated and refuted.”
For that reason, he gutted much of the organization’s defense.
Doyle explained that the jury probably was less convinced about consumer fraud claims and more by the actions of “a liberal judge who hamstringed the defendants while feeding the jury a steady diet of mischaracterizations on the work of JONAH.”
Spokeswoman Maggie Gallagher earlier told WND that SPLC’s goals are to put “out of existence” any counseling in America that helps those with unwanted same-sex attractions.
Essentially, she said, it’s a campaign to “impose a new public morality” on the nation, concluding that for those who have same-sex attractions, “there’s nothing you are entitled to do except say it’s great and I want to live a gay life.”