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November 12, 2013

Social workers must be free to use faith|

After reading Dr. Catherine Lawrence’s Sept. 21 letter responding to my op-ed column (”Gay rights push threatens free speech”), I am scratching my head in confusion and need to add some clarity to this debate. I found nothing in my article that might cause readers to have “false impressions.”

The Constitution protects all forms of speech, not just public speech, as she states. I am unsure why she cites the NASW Code of Ethics because it only governs its own members, who are a minority in the social work field. State law governs the rest of us. She cited that section of the code that refers to social workers not practicing, or cooperating with discrimination against homosexuals. My point exactly. 

The laws passed in California and New Jersey overtly discriminate against gays when they make it unlikely that licensed mental health professionals will work with them on creating change they seek. These laws are only for gays. Why isn’t NASW opposing them? 

Last, she gave her stance regarding social workers incorporating faith-based ideas in their practice. She recommended that they refer clients to clergy instead of addressing spiritual issues. In speaking with several Christian colleagues, we all agreed that including a client’s spirituality is extremely important in utilizing a holistic approach that will lead to improved mental health. Body, mind AND spirit.

I’ve discussed this with clergy of various denominations. They unanimously agree that they are not experts in this field and would rather have mental health professionals work with someone facing a significant psychiatric issue. That would include, I suppose, gay teenagers of faith desperately wanting to change their sexual orientation.

Jerry Kabat


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