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Court rules against Christian therapist in “conversion therapy” lawsuit

Since 2018, licensed therapists in Washington have been banned from offering guidance to minors who are unhappy with their proclivities for same-sex attraction or who struggle with their gender orientation. That same statute, however, allows therapists to encourage young adults to pursue their same-sex interests and gender disillusionment. One Christian counselor has been taking a stand against the unjust law – but the courts just declined to rehear an appeal in his case.

Brian Tingley, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Tacoma, sued the state in 2021 over Senate Bill 5722 for violating his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion. Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Roger Brooks, who is representing Tingley before the 9th Circuit, argued that conversations between an individual and their counselor are private and should not be subject to government censorship.

“The government has no business dictating what personal goals a client can or can’t pursue in counseling,” Brooks stated. “We hope the full court will agree to hear this case and halt Washington state’s unlawful attempt to ban someone’s speech simply because they disagree with the viewpoints expressed.”

SB 5722 categorizes speaking to minors about their sexual orientation and offering guidance against same-sex attraction or “altering” their biological gender as “conversion therapy,” even if the minor in question is voluntarily seeking therapy for unwanted feelings regarding their sexuality and gender orientation. While the law makes exemptions for religious groups to continue discussions of this nature with their congregants, it does not offer provisions for licensed therapists with Christian practices, who could face fines of up to $5,000 and have their license permanently revoked if found in violation of the law.

In September 2022, a three-judge panel ruled against Tingley’s case, concluding that the state has the power to oversee medical practices and restrict certain methods of therapy.

“States do not lose the power to regulate the safety of medical treatments performed under the authority of a state license merely because those treatments are implemented through speech rather than through scalpel,” the court opinion reads.

In January 2023, the court again sided against Tingley by denying his appeal for the case to be heard in front of a full court, rather than the three-judge panel that previously ruled against him.

The dissenting opinion wrote in favor of Tingley’s appeal, arguing that “Because the speech underpinning conversion therapy is overwhelmingly—if not exclusively—religious, we should have granted Tingley’s petition for en banc review to evaluate his Free Speech claim under a more exacting standard.”

This law forces therapists to push radical gender identity onto our children with no allowance for religious perspectives, even within the confines of a Christian practice, such as Tingley’s. SB 5722 violates the constitutional rights of therapists and their patients by restricting their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion. After the latest setback, Tingley’s attorneys are assessing their next steps in challenging SB 5722 – especially in the wake of an appeals court decision in Tampa surrounding a similar issue.

On February 2nd, an appeals court ruled favorably on a case out of Tampa, Florida, stating that the “ordinance that prohibited licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity, is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. “

Keep Brian Tingley and this fight in your prayers!

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