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Parenting columnist John Rosemond wins federal free speech case in Kentucky

John Rosemond, 67, is the longest-running columnist in the U.S.

John Rosemond, 67, is the longest-running columnist in the U.S.

John Rosemond’s column about parenting has been a mainstay in feature sections of The Buffalo News for decades, so readers counted themselves among the surprised when the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology served him with a cease-and-desist order in early 2013 insisting he refrain from calling himself a “family psychologist,” because he was not licensed to practice in the state.

The move came after a fairly typical Rosemond column in which he advised a parent of a child who was underperforming in school to take away the teen’s electronic devices and suspend his privileges until he boosted his grades. (Read this weekend's column here.)

That column ended with a tagline similar to the one used in Rosemond’s column that appears every weekend in WNY Refresh. In the case of the Lexington Herald Leader, it read: “Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website at Rosemond.com.”

A former Kentucky psychologist filed a complaint with the board of examiners, calling the advice dispensed “unprofessional and unethical.”

But a federal judge in Kentucky agreed with Rosemond’s lawyers this month that the cease-and-desist order violated Rosemond’s Constitutional right to free speech.

Rosemond’s legal counsel pointed out, among other things, that Rosemond is a licensed psychologist in his home state of North Carolina.

“Rosemond is entitled to express his views, and the fact that he is not a Kentucky-licensed psychologist does not change that fact,” U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove wrote in his ruling. “If the facts were different, had Rosemond represented himself to be a Kentucky-licensed psychologist or had he actually entered into a client-patient relationship in Kentucky, the outcome might be different.

“In the case at hand, he did not,” the judge wrote. “All he did was write a column providing parenting advice to an audience of newspaper subscribers. To permit the state to halt this lawful expression would result in a harm far more concrete and damaging to society than the speculative harm which the state purportedly seeks to avoid, and perhaps that is the ‘wake up’ call best drawn from the facts of this case.”

Read the Lexington newspaper’s report about the dismissal here and the entire decision here. Read an editorial from the Orange County Register about the matter here.

I had the opportunity to meet Rosemond – who first started writing his column in 1976 – early last year when he visited St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in the Town of Tonawanda.

The church was packed with parents of all ages, and even a few children. He asked a question he occasionally asked in his column:

You’re moving into a new house. If you had a choice, would you prefer living next to a person with high self-esteem or living next to a person who’s humble and modest?

When Rosemond asked, “High self-esteem?” very few hands shot up.

“So,” he said, to a great deal of laughter, “you want your children to have high self-esteem, but you don’t want to live next door to them when they become adults.”

Click here to read the story I wrote about the advice he dispensed that night.

I told him after his talk that I feel guilty almost every time I read one of his columns. I see myself bending to the eye level of my daughters and asking them what they would like every time I read that this is a faux pas for parents. Rosemond makes this point often, when stressing that parents act like adults – and treat their kids like children, not friends or equals.

If I only knew when my girls were little what I have read in recent years! (This is only a lame excuse in my case, because Rosemond sounds very much like my mother-in-law, who passed away before I became Refresh Editor in early 2013.)

Still, in their 20s, my daughters have learned valuable lessons in their lives and become responsible young adults.

When people find out what I do for a living, invariably those 55 and over tell me they love John Rosemond. Quite a few younger parents tell me they do, as well.

He has a point of view worth strongly considering, which is why The Buffalo News chose long ago to include him in its pages and online.

So have papers in Kentucky, which after the recent decision will continue to do so without interruption from their state Board of Examiners of Psychology.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh

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