Friday, November 07, 2014

Court Rejects Free Exercise and Establishment Clause Challenges To California's Reparative Therapy Ban

In Welch v. Brown, (ED CA, Nov. 5, 2014), a California federal district rejected Free Exercise and Establishment Clause challenges to California's ban on mental health professionals providing "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE) for minors.  The decision follows on the 9th Circuit's rejection of a free speech challenge to the law.  At issue was a claim by a licensed therapist who was also an ordained minister. The court held that the SOCE ban is a neutral law of general applicability, so that only rational basis review need be applied, saying:
the Legislature was concerned with the harm SOCE therapy causes minors regardless of whether it is motivated by secular or religious beliefs.
The court also rejected the argument that the law creates excessive entanglement with religion:
even if a mental health provider's use of SOCE relies on church doctrines or teachings, the state need not evaluate or consider those religious teachings in order to determine whether the provider performed SOCE.
Finally the court rejected privacy challenges to the law.