Arlington, Va.—Can government censors throw Dear Abby in jail or ban Dr. Phil from TV?
That is the question to be answered by a major First Amendment lawsuit just filed in federal court by John Rosemond—America’s longest-running newspaper advice columnist—and the Institute for Justice. In May 2013, John received an astonishing order from the Kentucky attorney general: Stop publishing your advice column in the Bluegrass State or face fines and jail.
“Dear Abby was not a criminal, and neither is John Rosemond,” said IJ Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “Newspaper columnists cannot be threatened with fines and jail for giving advice.”
John Rosemond is a North Carolina-licensed family psychologist and the author of more than a dozen books on parenting. Since 1976, he has written his popular syndicated advice column where he often answers questions from readers on issues related to parenting.
The Kentucky attorney general and the state’s psychologist licensing board believe that John’s column, which is published every week in more than 200 newspapers nationwide, constitutes the “unlicensed practice of psychology” when it appears in a Kentucky newspaper. They also believe it is a crime for John to truthfully call himself a family psychologist in the tagline of his column because he is licensed in North Carolina and not Kentucky.
“The government can’t create a monopoly on parenting advice,” said IJ Client John Rosemond.. “Everyone has the right to give advice on how to raise children—and, as any parent can tell you, everyone does.”
“Occupational licensing boards are the new censors,” said IJ Attorney Paul Sherman. “They do not believe that the First Amendment applies to them, and they are aggressive. Kentucky’s crackdown is part of a larger national pattern in which out-of-control licensing boards have punished and censored people for giving advice.”
Kentucky’s act of censorship has forced a showdown in federal court over one of the most important unanswered questions in First Amendment law: Can occupational-licensing laws trump free speech? The courts have yet to clearly answer this question. John’s lawsuit, or one like it, will eventually find itself before the U.S. Supreme Court.
For more on today’s lawsuit, visit www.ij.org/KYPsychSpeech. Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is the national law firm for liberty.