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WASHINGTON (AP) — In a defeat for gay rights, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled Friday that a Christian graphic artist who wants to design wedding websites can refuse to work with same-sex couples.

The court ruled 6-3 for designer Lorie Smith despite a Colorado law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender, and other characteristics. Smith had argued that the law violates her free speech rights.

Smith’s opponents warned that a win for her would allow a range of businesses to discriminate, refusing to serve Black, Jewish or Muslim customers, interracial or interfaith couples, or immigrants. But Smith and her supporters had said that a ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their beliefs.

PBS.

In her case, she was an artist. But what about mental health professionals who treat secular clients? Can a frum therapist refuse to provide mental health services to a secular or gay client? Would that be ethical?

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  • 1
    Where is this quote from?
    – Double AA
    Jul 9, 2023 at 3:52
  • 1
    Well whatever it is cite it properly
    – Double AA
    Jul 9, 2023 at 4:05
  • 2
    Is this a question of halacha or US law?
    – Double AA
    Jul 9, 2023 at 4:06
  • 1
    A Jewish doctor is allowed to treat non Jewish, secular patients. What exactly would the issue be with a therapist providing services
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 9, 2023 at 4:44
  • 2
    As far as I understand, the ruling was not about providing services to a gay client, but about creating expressive content contrary to one's beliefs. In any case, why would this SCOTUS ruling be relevant to halacha?
    – shmosel
    Jul 9, 2023 at 4:51

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Let's approach this from a halachic angle. There are three issues here:

A.) We aren't supposed to enable someone to sin (this is called lifnei iver). "Enable" means if I didn't provide my help, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to do the sin. The Talmud says if you're the only frankincense seller in the area, and a pagan asks to buy one pound of frankincense, you can't sell it to them because you are enabling their pagan worship. You may, however, sell a hundred pounds to AJAX PAGAN WORSHIP SUPPLY, knowing fully-well that Ajax will turn around and sell it in one-pound packages to individuals intending to use it -- because that's "enabling the enabler." On the other hand, a dual-use product (the Talmud says selling firewood to a pagan temple, of which they probably use 80% to keep the building warm and 20% for their sacrifices) would be okay.

B.) We also shouldn't facilitate someone's sin, however, there are a lot of loopholes there. If there are ten frankincense stores in town and if I turn away the pagan customer, he'll just go to the next one down the block, the short answer is "better to say no when reasonably possible." (This is called mesayea)

C.) We're not allowed to tell a sinner: "hey, that sinful action you're doing is a-okay." (This is called chanufah.) "You're a swell guy overall" is a different matter.

For a mental-health professional treating secular patients (as in they're Jewish but not observant? Non-Jews of no particular religious persuasion?), I don't see how any of the above would be an issue. (Well, you'd have to construe some very odd cases, like someone who tells you they're Jewish but choose not to keep Sabbath, they drive trucks on Saturdays, but need help getting over some phobia so they can get back to driving trucks on Saturdays ...)

If someone goes to a mental-health professional for, let's say, substance-abuse counseling, then the professional focuses on that; no one's asking about their theology or marital status and it's a moot point. (Or even if it comes up -- that's not what the therapist is helping here.)

(To back up a minute: there were rabbis in the 1960s who were suspicious of mental-health professionals unless they were Orthodox Jews; concerned that they'd diagnose the cause of all ills as the person's faith. Today therapy is much more focused. The same way that we are comfortable trusting that the clinician is going to just focus on the issue at-hand, the Orthodox Jewish therapist has no business addressing irrelevant stuff in their patient's life.)

The thorniest issue, then, would be providing marriage counseling to a couple that halacha would not allow together ... at that point it would probably be worth consulting professional codes of ethics/conduct and secular law about what's required. And a competent posek.

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