Christian Therapist Sues Washington For Law Banning Him From Counseling Based On His Beliefs

Washington State Supreme Court

A Christian family and licensed marriage therapist, Brian Tingley, sued Washington for its law that bans him from counseling minors on sexual orientation based on his beliefs.

According to The Christian Post (CP), Tingley filed the lawsuit on May 13, Thursday against the state for its Senate Bill 5722 signed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee four years ago. Tingley's case is being handled by the Alliance Defending Freedom set to uphold his First Amendment right at the U.S. District Court of Washington's Western District.

Alliance Defending Freedom said Tingley filed the lawsuit because his "right to practice his religious beliefs by speaking to clients on topics of gender identity and sexual attractions and change in a manner consistent with the teachings of his faith and that of his clients" has been deprived by the state's law.

With the law, Tingley "is not able to freely and without fear speak what he believes to be true" such that Tingley's "client is therefore denied the right to receive open and uninhibited thoughts from his or her chosen counselor." These then, make Senate Bill 5722 a "denial of free speech rights" and violates what the First Amendment provides. Per the ADF,

"The fact is that Brian always works with his clients in achieving a goal they set for themselves. He does this by simply talking with his clients and helping them work through a wide variety of issues that they face. Brian listens to his clients as they explore their own feelings, desires, and reasons, and he provides support and feedback to help them towards the goals they have chosen to pursue."

"But the government has determined that some goals aren't acceptable. And Brian could violate the law simply for having discussions with his clients on matters of gender, sexual orientation, sexual behaviors, or sexual attractions."

Tingley, who has been a counselor since 2002 and currently servicing Tacoma's Fircrest, has served many minor clients facing the issues of same-sex attraction who do need to hear the "moral teachings of their Christian faith."

As per Senate Bill 5722's literature, it "intends to regulate the professional conduct of licensed health care providers with respect to performing conversion therapy on patients under age eighteen." It also specified a particular manner of "speech" when speaking with their clients.

"This act may not be construed to apply to speech that does not constitute the performance of conversion therapy by licensed health care providers on patients under age eighteen, nor shall it be construed to apply to religious practices or counseling under the auspices of a religious denomination, church, or organization that do not constitute the performane of conversion therapy by licensed health care providers on patients under age eighteen," the law said.

The law explained that its main purpose is to protect the "physical and psychological well-being of minors" that include the members of the LGBTQ+ and that its protection extends to a minor's "exposure to serious harms caused by conversion therapy".

ADF pointed out that the law imposes on "uniformity" while silencing "dissent" when it comes to a counselor and a client's faith beliefs, any differing interpretations of science on the matter, and ideologies, such that it becomes an "orthodoxy" on "sexual morality, human nature, personal identity, and free will."

CP stressed in its report that the law mainly reflects the view that sexual orientation is an "immutable characteristic," which is what the Democratic Party and the LGBTQ+ community upholds, rather than a choice that can be made by the person. CP cited Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono, who took issue with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett over her use of the words "sexual preference" in reference to "sexual orientation" during the latter's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Besides Washington, the state of Virginia has a similar law, House Bill 386, that was signed into law last March 2020.