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EDITORIAL: No free advice in Kentucky

The shrinks are out to get a newspaper columnist

- - Friday, July 19, 2013

Somebody in the attorney general's office in Kentucky has been getting some bad advice. Jack Conway, a Democrat, is demanding that a popular columnist with advice on how to raise kids, take a "time-out." If he doesn't quit with the advice in his column in Kentucky newspapers the state intends to punish him with fines and penalties.

Since 1976, John Rosemond has published his advice column in 200 newspapers. He has a master's degree in psychology from Western Illinois University and is licensed as a family psychologist in North Carolina, where he lives.

Mr. Conway reads the column in the Lexington Herald-Leader, a leading Kentucky newspaper, and sent the columnist a cease-and-desist letter in May. The attorney general doesn't say whether he took any of Mr. Rosemond's advice himself, and it didn't work. He's acting in behalf of Kentucky psychologists who don't like competition. The state's Board of Examiners of Psychology argues that the question-and-answer format of Mr. Rosemond's column is an illegal practice of psychology because Mr. Rosemond is not licensed in Kentucky. They object to the newspaper's describing him as "a family psychologist."

If the bureaucrats prevail we presume they will move next on the public libraries to cleanse their shelves of the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, who so far as anyone knows never took out a license in Kentucky, either. Mr. Rosemond sued the board this week, arguing — correctly, it seems to us — that the threat to impose a $1,000 fine and send him to jail for a year violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

This is not an issue of public safety but of dollars and cents. Occupational licensing has become a favorite way to limit competition. Kentucky psychologists, apparently a nervous lot with many anxieties, seem concerned that parents will take Mr. Rosemond's advice rather than pay them money to listen to their problems.

Mr. Rosemond is represented by the Institute for Justice. Paul Sherman, a lawyer for the institute, observes that this is not the first time that a licensing board has sought to limit free speech. "Occupational licensing boards are the new censors," he says. "They're aggressive, and they don't think the First Amendment applies to them."

Psychologists are usually kind and gentle, often without the high self-regard of the psychiatrists they would like to be. The Kentuckians we know are usually well-adjusted folk, and customers might be scarce in the hills and hollows. So we have some free advice for the attorney general's clients' cartel. If they can't stand competition from a newspaper columnist, maybe they ought to apply for a license in a different trade.

The Washington Times