Victory Over LGBT Agenda for Miami Counselors

MIAMI, Fla., Oct. 4, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ — Yesterday, an overwhelming majority of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners voted 7-4 to reject Proposed Ordinance 17-1359, which sought to ban any discussion with or counseling provided to minors who have unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion.

The ban proponents misrepresented their actual goal of prohibiting licensed counselors, and anyone “not licensed” by the state – including pastors, teachers, and parents – from simply talking to any minor (including a parent’s own child) about the child’s unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion. The ban prohibited anyone from saying to a minor that same-sex activity or identifying as the opposite sex is harmful, wrong, or should be resisted. The majority rejected the poorly-drafted speech ban, as a violation of First Amendment free speech, religious exercise, and parental rights, as well as on the grounds that government should not be inserting itself between a client and a counselor.

Prior to the vote, Liberty Counsel partnered with Christian Family Coalition to provide analysis and support to commissioners concerned about the First Amendment rights of their constituents. Jonathan Alexandre, Director of Public Policy for Liberty Counsel and Liberty Counsel Action, testified in person against the proposed speech ban at the hearing today. After more than five hours of debate, in which more than 70 people spoke against the ban, the commissioners rejected it as targeting speech with which the ban’s proponents disagreed.

Liberty Counsel has been instrumental in defeating such bans at the state level in numerous states, including Florida. Florida proponents of such counseling bans have turned to municipal governments to try at the local level what they have not accomplished statewide, hoping to generate the false perception of overwhelming support. Yet, such local bans violate the jurisdiction the Florida Legislature holds over licensed professionals engaged in state-wide practice.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which also has jurisdiction over Florida, has found that a law similar to the proposed speech ban, involving speech, licensed medical doctors, and questions about patients’ gun ownership was an unconstitutional infringement of the “substantial First Amendment protection” accorded to health care provider-client “communications about medical treatment” Wollschlaeger v. Governor, Florida, 848 F.3d 1293, 1309 (11th Cir. 2017) (emphasis in original). The proposed speech ban would have violated not only the free speech rights of counselors; the doctor-patient relationship; the right of client self-determination; the right of minors to hear and receive information, which was bad enough. The proposed ban was even more egregious, in that it purported to apply to all other people – including clergy and pastors, priests and parents.

“We commend the majority of Miami-Dade County Commissioners who voted for the First Amendment,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Municipalities have no authority to invade the counselor-client relationship. The speech ban’s attempted reach beyond ‘licensed’ professionals to anyone and everyone else, including pastors counseling church members and parents counseling their own minor children, was an egregious First Amendment violation. Licensed counselors and unlicensed persons all have First Amendment rights to counsel minors against the harms of homosexuality and gender confusion, for secular, scientific, and religious reasons. We are pleased that the majority of the commissioners rejected this proposal,” said Staver.

Life Legal Files Joint Amicus Brief with SCOTUS in Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ — Life Legal has collaborated with the Bioethics Defense Fund in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court yesterday in Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The brief was written on behalf of the American College of Pediatricians and other pro-life health professionals.

As you may be aware, the Masterpiece case involves a baker who was asked to create a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple. The baker, Jack Phillips, said he could not use his artistic talents to give approval to a marriage that violated his religious beliefs. In response, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission said Phillips’ religious beliefs were illegal and prohibited him from designing any wedding cakes, which resulted in the loss of 40% of his business. The Commission imposed draconian reporting requirements on Phillips, forcing him to provide a detailed account of the reasons for any orders he declines.

So why would Life Legal, a pro-life law firm, file a Supreme Court brief in support of a baker?

If the State of Colorado can destroy Phillips’ business because he chooses not to use his skills to create a product that expresses the state’s sentiment on a controversial issue, what is to stop a state from forcing any professional to violate his or her deeply held belief in furtherance of the state’s viewpoint?

Our concern is that the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is “likely to have rapid and lasting impact on the rights of medical professionals to practice their professions consistently with their consciences and the teachings of their faiths on issues of life and death-or indeed to practice their professions at all.”

“Masterpiece Cakeshop has enormous implications for the First Amendment rights of everyone in the workplace, especially those whose deeply held beliefs require them to opt out of certain practices,” said Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. “We have seen increasing pressure on health care professionals, in particular, to perform or facilitate abortions or risk losing their livelihoods. Life Legal trusts that the Supreme Court will adhere to precedent in guarding First Amendment freedoms, including protections against laws compelling speech and activities that violate religious and conscience objections.”

Link to brief: lifelegaldefense.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/16-111-tsac-amer-coll-of-pediatricians.pdf

Court sides with Wis. photographer who declines same-sex weddings

.- A Christian photographer who declines clients because she does not believe in same-sex marriage cannot be sued under certain anti-discrimination laws on the ground she does not run a storefront, a Wisconsin court has said.

“The court’s orders bring this case to a close, and we are pleased that Amy and many other artists in Madison and throughout the state can pursue their work without fear of government censorship,” said Jonathan Scruggs, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

Scruggs said the judgement has “vital implications” for artistic freedom.

The case concerned Amy Larson, sole owner of the Amy Lynn Photography Studio. Due to her Evangelical Christian beliefs about marriage, she will not take photographs at same-sex wedding ceremonies.

After reports of other photographers being sued for not photographing same-sex couples’ ceremonies, she stopped taking all wedding business out of concern her position would break the law.

In March she filed a challenge to a city ordinance and state law, asking a judge to bar enforcement and to declare them violations of the U.S. Constitution. She sought reimbursement for legal fees and attorney expenses, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.

She thought it was unfair that the Madison ordinance and state laws giving equal protection for characteristics like sexual orientation made it difficult for her to conduct business according to her faith.

A county circuit court judge, together with government officials, agreed on a court order saying that the laws do not apply to Lawson on the grounds she does not operate a storefront; and because she does not have a physical storefront (her photography studio is operated out of her private apartment), her business “is not a public place of accommodation or amusement,” to which the anti-discrimination laws apply.

“The court found – and the city and state have now agreed – that creative professionals without storefronts can’t be punished under public accommodation laws for exercising their artistic freedom because those laws simply don’t apply to them,” said Scruggs, her attorney.

“It means that government officials must allow such professionals anywhere in the city and state the freedom to make their own decisions about which ideas they will promote with their artistic expression,” he said.

The decision follows years of controversy over the legal implications of recognizing same-sex unions as marriages. Event venues, wedding cake bakers, florists and others have faced lawsuits for declining to serve same-sex wedding ceremonies, while some employers have changed internal policy to recognize same-sex unions as marriages.

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