By Mario Gonzalez, Esq.
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A3371/S2278, the bill to ban counseling efforts to change a minors' sexual orientation, has passed both houses of the NJ legislature. Absent intervention by governor Christie, parents in NJ can no longer seek professional (including psychiatric) help for their minor children struggling with their sexual identity if such counseling includes any manner of redirection of the child's "stated" gender affectional preference, even if the professional believes the affections to be misguided and/or mistaken. In saying what I am saying I am in no way condoning the recently reported ridiculous and harmful practices allegedly utilized by members of the psychiatric community in this regard, assuming such reports are true.

What is of concern to me is that fact that this bill presents an impermissible intrusion into a parent's right to bring up their minor children according to the precepts of their particular faith without intervention by the government. The issue of gender identity is integrally tied to foundational religious beliefs affecting a majority of Americans - Beliefs which must be respected and over which the state cannot constitutionally intrude, irrespective of popular opinion to the contrary.

In light of this legislation, it would appear that mental health care professionals who are devout Muslims, Jews, or Christians are now at a crossroads in terms of reconciling their professions with their respective faiths. Licensed School teachers are sure to follow if they work in a school, public, private, or parochial, "licensed" by the State of New Jersey. This is a matter of a person's right to hold to their religious convictions and to impose the same onto their children, convictions held sacrosanct for thousands of years. To summarily dismiss and to publicly disparage and ridicule the views of millions of decent, law-abiding Americans who happen to hold to strong religious convictions on a particular matter of great moral controversy, and to now legislatively force a particular secular view into how parents choose to care for their children's psychological/psychiatric health, is simply both "un-American" and unconstitutional.

The practice in many Christian churches in Germany during WWII was to sing louder so as to drown out the screams of millions of Jews as they were herded to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps on train tracks near church buildings. Singing louder did not save the life of one precious Jew. When it comes to enacting legislation that directly or indirectly affects our religious beliefs or the manner in which we choose to raise our children, we can either sing or fight. I would highly recommend that we learn from past mistakes. Though I would legally fight for the right of any person not be discriminated against in terms of housing, employment, etc., I would fight even more strongly for people to be able to practice their faith unimpeded by government, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.