Herald-Leader Editorial

Advice column is free speech; Ky. psychology board overreaches

July 17, 2013 

What do the Westboro Baptist Church, Larry Flynt and John Rosemond have in common?

All have turned to federal courts to protect their First Amendment rights.

Westboro and Flynt prevailed at the Supreme Court which ruled that, no matter how noxious or crude, protests at military funerals and Hustler satire are constitutionally protected forms of expression.

Rosemond, whose syndicated parenting advice column is mundane by comparison, is at the beginning of his judicial journey, but it's hard to see how he can lose.

Rosemond filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Frankfort challenging a cease-and-desist order issued by the Kentucky board that licenses psychologists.

Responding to a complaint, the board concluded earlier this year that Rosemond's advice column, published in the Herald-Leader and other newspapers, had crossed the line into the practice of psychology which requires a license in Kentucky that Rosemond does not possess.

Now if Rosemond had hung up a shingle and begun seeing clients here without a license, the board would have a case. But published or broadcast advice aimed at a large general audience is a different matter.

As Rosemond's lawyer said: "Who's next? Dr. Phil? Dear Abby?"

This seems to be a clear example of regulatory overreach and a violation of the First Amendment.

Granted, in this era of information-proliferation, it's possible to imagine circumstances in which professional or occupational boards could have an obligation to protect the public from misinformation dispensed by someone falsely claiming certain expertise or credentials.

But that is not the case here.

The Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology should waste as little of their colleagues' fees as possible by quickly abandoning this attempt at censorship.

Rosemond, who has a master's degree in psychology and is licensed to call himself a psychologist in North Carolina where he lives, is controversial.

We publish letters to the editor with some regularity criticizing his advice as insensitive and ill informed.

Those who dislike his ideas and opinions have a ready recourse: Don't read him.

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