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Jewish Therapist Sues NYC Over Counseling Censorship Law, Joining Ex-Gays

On Wednesday, an Orthodox Jewish therapist joined five other lawsuits across the country (some from ex-gays) in filing a legal challenge to New York City's ban on "conversion therapy." New York's state legislature passed a similar ban last week, which has yet to be signed by the governor. The therapist's lawsuit challenges NYC's ban on free speech and religious freedom grounds, attacking the law as "the Counseling Censorship Law."

Dr. David Schwartz filed the lawsuit against New York City and City Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas.

"Dr. David Schwartz filed the case now because he is facing the threat of up to $10,000 in fines per patient, and the New York City Council has put out bulletins that they're looking for anonymous complainants," Jeana Hallock, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the law firm representing Schwartz, told PJ Media in an interview Thursday.

Hallock said Dr. Schwartz "keeps a very, very busy schedule," often working from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. He has worked for four decades, and Orthodox Jewish patients come to him due to their shared faith. Clients struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction are "a current part of his practice now," and they should be free to pursue their own therapy goals. "He may have an individual who wants to marry a woman and become a father but struggles with same-sex attraction," the lawyer explained.

"The patient-psychotherapist relationship requires giving patients the ability to express themselves without fear of reprisal and allowing therapists the freedom to respond to that expression with understanding; it is the last possible place where the government should be dictating what topics or ideas are off limits," the lawsuit states.

The Counseling Censorship Law "reaches into this confidential relationship to prohibit the discussion and exploration of ideas—and even the patient's own, personal goals—to which the New York City Council objects."

The NYC law, adopted last year, makes it illegal for any person to provide services for a fee that "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." Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian law firm representing Schwartz, noted that the law only prohibits counsel in one direction. Counselors may guide patients in the direction of LGBT identities, but not away from them.

The law threatens fines of $1,000, $5,000, or $10,000 for the first, second, and subsequent violations.

"All Americans, secular and religious, deserve the right to private conversations, free from government censorship," ADF senior counsel Roger Brooks said in a statement. "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."