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Columnist battles Kentucky over title, free speech

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John Rosemond, whose syndicated parenting column appears in the Journal as well as 200 newspapers nationwide, has long been a lightning rod for controversy because of his Bible-based, no-coddling parenting philosophy, as well as his political conservatism and criticism of psychology – his own profession.

Now Rosemond is embroiled in a new dust-up, this one with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office as well as the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology. They want him to agree to a cease-and-desist order and stop identifying himself as a psychologist because he is not licensed as such in that state.

Further, Kentucky officials say, Rosemond’s question-and-answer column format amounts to the dispensing of direct mental health services.

New Mexico officials are watching the case closely to see how it plays out. They have not received any complaints about Rosemond from citizens or health care professionals, nor are there any legal issues pending against him by the state, said Dave Pederson, general counsel with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.

Rosemond, 65, who has been writing a parenting column since 1976 and is the author of more than a dozen books on parenting, is fighting back. He has filed a federal lawsuit against the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology claiming that the board is trying to censor his column, a violation of his right to free speech.

Pederson said he is aware that professional boards in other states have fielded complaints of practicing without a license as well as other violations of “their disciplinary rules concerning out-of-state ‘celebrity’ professionals.” However, that type of regulatory practice “raises significant issues regarding the reach of state regulatory practice and certainly implicates First Amendment rights.”

In New Mexico, Pederson said, regulating boards oversee practitioners who maintain a physical presence and practice within state boundaries. “If someone is not treating an individual patient or a client, if it’s more about offering generic advice as a columnist does, then it’s a First Amendment rights issue and that does not fall within the traditional regulatory scheme.”

Treating it otherwise would have far-reaching implications, Pederson said.

“Could it apply to Dr. Phil for telling people how to discipline their children or giving marriage advice; could it apply to Dr. Oz for giving advice on the treatment of diabetes or asthma; or could it apply to Ben Stein for writing in Time about how to structure your investment portfolio?”

Rosemond is represented in his lawsuit by the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, which has a history of filing lawsuits challenging what they see as overreach by government licensing boards.

Rosemond attended Western Illinois University, graduating in 1971 with a master’s degree in community psychology. Rosemond has acknowledged that while he can legally call himself a psychologist under North Carolina law, many states require psychologists to have a doctorate.

His column appears in the Journal on Thursdays.

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