John Rosemond, a popular columnist and psychologist from North Carolina is being censored by the Kentucky attorney general’s office. Rosemond has been writing since 1976 and is syndicated in more than 200 newspapers. His words of wisdom will soon disappear from print if Kentucky has its way.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway  reportedly sent John Rosemond  a cease and desist order demanding he stop publishing his Dr. Phil – Dear Abby type column in the Bluegrass state. He is being accused of practicing psychology without a license. Such a crime is punishable by up to six months in jail and $500 per offense. The journalist is licensed to practice family psychology in North Carolina, but holds no license in other states where his column appears.
The columnist, who often voices non-liberal views on child rearing, holds a master’s degree in psychology and has written over 12 books on parenting. Those books have sold more than one million copies. His opinion column is the nation’s longest running advice column by a single author. Dear Abby ran longer, but had two writers over the years. Questions posed to John Rosemond come from readers from around the country.
Libertarian public relations firm, the Institute for Justice, is taking up John Rosemond’s cause and has filed a lawsuit on his behalf in federal court. The free speech  case will assist the Libertarian group’s efforts to force the US Supreme Court to decide whether or not occupational licensing laws trump First Amendment  rights.
John Rosemond’s column began as a way to address questions posed from folks who had attended the speeches and seminars he held around the country. Once the Internet came along, he began offering parents the opportunity to submit questions on his website. The psychologist offer a tried and true old-fashioned approach to discipline and parenting habits. According to the Carolina Journal, Rosemond promotes tough love and “spanking when necessary,” and deemed attachment parenting and other “new fangled” approaches to raising children as both destructive and extreme.
Although Rosemond readily admits that his views on parenting styles are considered controversial by some, neither he nor his attorneys ever thought his published words would results in a cease and desist order by the government.
If John Rosemond’s words constitute practicing psychology without a license, so should Dr. Phil’s and a host of other television and print personalities, yet only the individual with a conservative slant has been slapped with a legal order. Both the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology and the Kentucky Attorney General stated that answering individual questions is “akin” to offering one-on-one counseling.
An excerpt from John Rosemond cease and desist letter from the Kentucky Attorney General reads:
“The article is your response to a specific question from a parent about handling a teenager was a psychological service to the general public, which constituted the practice of psychology.”
The practice of psychology is defined this way by Kentucky statute:
“Rendering to individuals, groups, organizations, or the public any psychological service involving the application of principles, methods, and procedures of understanding, predicting, and influencing behavior, such as the principles pertaining to learning, perception, motivation, thinking, emotions, and interpersonal relationships.”
Attorney General Jack Conway appears to be taking a page out of Eric Holder’s playbook in regard to taking responsibilities for the actions and oversight of his office. Conway’s Deputy Communications Director Shelley Catharine Johnson told local news media that the attorney general had nothing to do with the John Rosemond cease and desist letter. Even a semi-intelligent person would find such a claim very difficult to believe. The legal document was on Conway’s official office letterhead and was signed, “Sincerely yours, Jack Conway, Attorney General.”
There is no evidence that Conway has denied the authenticity of the cease and desist order or sent Rosemond a letter informing him that the original correspondence had been a fake or a forgery. The Kentucky Attorney General’s spokeswoman deferred any comment about the First Amendment rights infringement to the state psychology board. Johnson also added, “It would not be appropriate for us to comment on a matter that we had nothing to do with.”
When local journalists asked if similar action would be taken against Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil, who also offer one-on-one advice on their equally popular radio and television shows, an extremely vague response was all that was uttered. According to the Kentucky Attorney General’s spokeswoman, no final action has been taken against John Rosemond, and Conway will not issue comment in regards to “open and ongoing matters.”
Paul Sherman, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, had this to say about the John Rosemond First Amendment rights issue:
“Their logic seems to be that, if you answer an individual’s question in a way that is visible to people in Kentucky, that is the practice of psychology. They don’t know that the person who asked the question was from Kentucky, or that he ever even saw the answer. But the danger is not that they could go after Dr. Phil. The danger is the law is so broad, they can go after whomever they want. And they’re probably not going to go after Dr. Phil, but they are going to go after smaller people who they think don’t have the resources to defend themselves.”
The Libertarian organization has also filed lawsuits on behalf of a veterinarian in Texas and a diet blogger from North Carolina after they became targets of the government for sharing information on their chosen topics. According to Institute of Justice statistics, one in every three workers now needs a government issued license to earn a paycheck. During the 1950s, just one in every 20 working Americans needed a government stamp of approval to earn a living.
Occupational licensing laws will likely become an even more intrusive free speech issue if these individual acts of government overreach go unchecked. The censorship of both individuals and the media could ultimately be in jeopardy. Websites like Off The Grid News, which offer gardening, emergency preparedness, home remedies, cooking, homeschooling, and animal raising tips could quickly become a thing of the past. Using the same premise being levied against John Rosemond in Kentucky, a school teacher licensed in one state could not share lesson plans or classroom management advice in an article or video in another state without violating occupational licensing laws.
How do you feel about John Rosemond’s cease and desist letter and his fight to retain his First Amendment rights and earn a living?