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September 21, 2013

Gay rights push threatens free speech

By Jerry Kabat Local Commentary
The Daily Star

---- — Newspapers are usually advocates of free speech. But I’ve come around to the idea that liberals, including their print edition mouthpieces, are the greatest threat to free speech in America.

Witness the NSA scandal and “political correctness.”

So, now we see The Daily Star’s editorials advocating that state-licensed mental health counselors be penalized for exercising their free speech right to provide certain therapies.

Those therapies include any attempts to dissuade anyone younger than 18 from engaging in homosexual behavior.

This is especially troubling for me because I am a state-licensed social worker. Although I have never faced a situation where a parent or child has come to me to alter sexual behavior of any kind, homosexual or heterosexual, I am unhappy with those who would restrict my right to do so.

I can imagine that there are many young people in this state who may have homosexual feelings and want to change. They may be aware that their faith, whether Christianity, Judaism or Islam, is clearly opposed to acting on those feelings. In their desire to keep within the boundaries of their belief system, they may seek help through a mental health counselor. Or they may seek help from a counselor to change for some other reason.

There are thousands of counselors across the state who, like myself, responded to a call to help others. After having God’s grace poured into my life as a senior in college, I felt my lord moving me to serve others in human services.

After graduation, I became a Volunteer in Service to America, working with the destitute in Rochester.

After leaving VISTA, I went back to school and earned my Master of Social Work degree, then eventually got my license. All of this was to answer God’s call. Receiving an abundance of grace and love, I wanted to share it by helping the needy, first the destitute, then the developmentally disabled, and now, for the past 16 years, in the mental health field.

But the powerful gay rights movement wants to prevent counselors like myself from providing that grace and love to their brethren.

A homosexual might have various reasons for seeking to change. It might be their faith, family, or fear of contracting a life-threatening STD (homosexual males are astronomically more likely to contract AIDS than heterosexuals).

It doesn’t matter what the reason. They come to us for help. The compassionate response would be to … help them, not turn them away. But counselors’ fear of losing one’s state license will likely make it more difficult for young gays to find the help they need.

The gay rights folks say, with no supporting evidence, that young homosexuals who participate in counseling to “convert” them to heterosexuality are more likely to commit suicide. I would argue that suicide is more likely if persons feel hopelessness from not being able to change when they desperately want to. These laws will foster a sense of hopelessness and despair in many.

Unfortunately, helping the distressed, common sense, free speech rights, religious rights and parental rights are being swept aside in some states by what is essentially an ideology: the gay rights movement.

My hope is that reasonable leadership in our state government will prevent any similar law from becoming a reality in New York.

If it does, I hope that counselors of faith will do the right thing and help those who seek to change regardless of the law.

Jerry Kabat is a state-icensed Christian social worker who works in Otsego and Chenango counties.