Advice columnist battling ‘disturbing trend’ toward censorship

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Russ Jones (

Noted family therapist, author, and columnist John Rosemond says his free-speech rights are being violated by a government agency in Kentucky that asserts he is breaking the law when his columns are published in newspapers in that state.


Since 1971, Rosemond has worked with families, children, and parents in the field of family psychology, speaking at local retreats, producing video and DVD series, and penning 11 best-selling parenting books along the way. And since 1976, his nationally syndicated parenting column, which currently appears weekly in more than 200 newspapers across the U.S., has addressed such hot-button topics as spanking, children’s rights, blended families, and home schooling. It is the longest-running, single-author advice column in the country.

But the popular columnist has received a cease-and-desist order from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway who, along with the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology, received a complaint in May 2013 from a retired psychologist about Rosemond's advice column. "Stop publishing your advice column in the Bluegrass State or face fines and jail," the letter demanded.

The attorney general and the licensing board argue that Rosemond's column constitutes the "unlicensed practice of psychology" in Kentucky when it appears in a state-based newspaper.

Paul Sherman is an attorney with The Institute for Justice, which is representing Rosemond.


“This is part of a disturbing national trend in which occupational licensing boards have decided that the First Amendment just doesn’t apply to them,” he tells OneNewsNow. “These boards are the new censors; they are aggressive, and they’re cracking down on speech across the country.”

The attorney is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction allowing his client to continue writing his column during the lawsuit.

“The consequences of holding that [such] advice is not protected by the First Amendment are extraordinary,” Sherman explains. “It would allow the government to arrest Dear Abby or throw Dr. Phil in jail – that simply can’t be the law. Advice columns are a form of speech, and they are fully protected by the First Amendment.”

Sherman adds that Rosemond's challenge addresses one of the most important unsettled questions in First Amendment law: Can the government use occupational-licensing laws to trump free speech?

Updates on the case are available on the Institute for Justice website.

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