NEW YORK (JTA) — The haredi Orthodox Agudath Israel of America condemned a New Jersey law prohibiting gay reparative therapy for minors as an infringement on religious freedom.
The statement from Agudah came just hours after Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill barring licensed therapists from providing treatment to help gay teenagers become straight.
“The new law tramples on the rights of mental health therapists to engage freely in their profession, and it unfairly denies teenagers seeking therapy for issues that are troubling them the ability to obtain professional help,” the group said.
“Under the new law, therapists, social workers or counselors who work with minors on these issues risk losing their licenses to practice their professions, and minors who sincerely want to obtain professional help will have nowhere to turn. This is an unconscionable infringement on personal liberty and a trampling of personal rights, including religious and free speech rights.”
New Jersey joins California as the only states with laws barring so-called reparative therapy. The New Jersey bill passed both houses of the state Legislature in June with bipartisan support.
In signing the bill into law, Christie, a moderate Republican who is widely believed to be eyeing a presidential run in 2016, appended a note indicating his reluctance to intrude on parents’ ability to determine the right treatment for their children.
“However, I also believe that on issues of medical treatment for children, we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,” Christie wrote. “The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”