In late August, the Pacific Justice Institute’s case of Welch v. Governor Jerry Brown in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that California Senate Bill 1172 does not inhibit persons from seeking sexual orientation change efforts for religious reasons. However, the court’s ruling restricts what pastors can say to minors struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.
The results of this ruling may impact Mauck & Baker’s recently filed Illinois federal lawsuit Pastors Protecting Youth v. Lisa Madigan if the established precedent in Welch influences district court opinion concerning whether free speech in Pastors Protecting Youth is protected. “California’s liberal legislation and liberal governor endorsed by the liberal Ninth Circuit have now established government control over pastoral counseling,” says First Amendment attorney John Mauck. “The Welch ruling is a setback for religious freedom and a beachhead/foothold of government control within our church walls.” We urge believers everywhere to continue to pray that the Gospel in all its applications will be restored to its place of protection under American law.
Mauck & Baker’s suit, filed Aug. 11, 2016, maintains that the Illinois ban (HB 217) on sexual identity counseling by pastors for minors unconstitutionally restricts a young person’s right to make personal choices regarding his or her own choice of sexual identity, as well as the pastors’ right to free speech and the exercise of religion. The overlap between the cases lies in the pastor’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Based on Welch, what a pastor says to a counselee in the context of his client’s therapy is a violation of law unprotected by the Constitution. If a minor wants to receive sexual identity counseling, his or her pastor would not be able to counsel against same-sex attraction or homosexual behavior. Furthermore, both the Illinois law and the liberal Ninth Circuit ruling prohibit licensed counselors from practicing their right to free speech.
Kevin Snider, the Pacific Justice Institute attorney summarizes the Welch case results, “The court today simply rewrote legislative history to avoid the uncomfortable reality that the California Legislature unabashedly targeted religious beliefs with this bill.”
Pacific Justice Insitute Press Release: Court OK’s State Restrictions on Counseling, Pastors
Mauck & Baker Illinois Lawsuit: Pastors Protecting Youth v. Lisa Madigan