Orthodox Jewish Therapist Sues NYC Over Ban on Sexual-Orientation Counseling

‘All Americans, secular and religious, deserve the right to private conversations, free from government censorship…’

Jewish Psychotherapist Sues NYC Over Ban on Sexual-Orientation Counseling

Dr. Dovid Schwartz / PHOTO: Alliance Defending Freedom

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist who argues that a New York City law restricts his First Amendment rights.

Dr. Dovid Schwartz, a licensed psychotherapist, said the law violates his and his patients’ rights to speech and religion.

The New York City Council in 2018 made it illegal for counselors to “seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or seek to change a person’s gender identity to conform to the sex of such individual that was recorded at birth” while charging a fee. California considered a similar law last year that would have made sexual-orientation counseling a “deceptive business practice.”

In other words, in New York City, it is legal to charge someone to counsel them in support of changing from their biological gender to a different gender, ADF reported. But it is illegal to help patients “reduce same-sex attraction or achieve comfort in a gender identity that matches her or his physical body.”

This statute holds force even if both doctor and patient are adults who consent to the counsel.

In Schwartz v. City of New York, the plaintiff requested that he not have to censor his private, consensual conversations or face financial ruin, as the law would fine him $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second and $10,000 for each violation thereafter.

“All Americans, secular and religious, deserve the right to private conversations, free from government censorship,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Roger Brooks. “It is difficult to imagine a more direct violation of freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment than New York City’s attempt to regulate the private sessions between an adult and his counselor.”

Schwartz said he meets with patients who ask for assistance in changing their sexual attraction to those of the opposite sex so that they can marry, form a biological family with an opposite-sex partner and adhere to their Jewish faith.

Schwartz said he assists people who want to change their same-sex attraction by simply listening and talking—he uses no other methods.

“Nearly all of Dr. Schwartz’s patients share his faith, and they value his counsel about issues of sexuality and family in part because his perspective is grounded in their shared Jewish faith and respect for Torah teachings,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeana Hallock. “The government has no right to dictate the personal goals an adult pursues with his or her therapist.”