The Indiana Senate passed a bill Feb. 28 that would prevent local governments from regulating certain counseling services, leaving that responsibility to the state. The services affected include marriage and family therapy, social work, mental health counseling and addiction counseling.
The measure says that if the state licenses or certifies—or exempts from licensure or certification—a person who provides such services, a local government may not regulate that person’s services.
The bill was introduced after the city of West Lafayette considered an ordinance in 2022 that would have fined unlicensed counselors $1,000 per day for engaging in “conversion therapy,” which the ordinance defined as “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
An analysis by the Indiana Family Institute explained that West Lafayette’s ordinance “would have made the services offered by many churches illegal, as they often work with counselors who qualify under the tenets of their faith, not under the rules of state or medical licensing boards.”
Opponents described the city’s proposed ordinance as “broadly and poorly drafted,” and legal counsel obtained by West Lafayette’s Faith Church called it “unconstitutional on its face.” Pastor Steve Viars of Faith Church also pointed out that his church never has, nor ever will, practice conversion therapy.
“We as Biblical counselors are opposed to conversion reparative therapy,” Viars said during a podcast of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. “But as I started to read what they were proposing, they weren’t really talking about conversion therapy, and that’s really the game here. They have defined it so broadly that it would include a parent, a teacher, certainly a counselor or a pastor, who would even open the Word of God and show a young person what Scripture says about the church’s 2,000-year-old principle of chastity in singleness and fidelity in a monogamous marriage. So that’s really the game that’s being played here.”
Although the West Lafayette ordinance was eventually withdrawn, churches and Biblical counselors sought to prevent other local governments from proposing similar ordinances, and the Senate bill would provide that protection. The bill moved on to the Indiana House March 1.
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