John Rosemond has been dispensing parenting advice in his newspaper column since 1976, making him one of the longest-running syndicated columnists in the country.
But some Kentucky authorities want to put him in a time out.
In May, Kentucky’s attorney general and its Board of Examiners of Psychology told Rosemond his parenting column — which regularly offers old-school advice and shows little tolerance for any kind of parental coddling — amounts to the illegal practice of psychology.
They want him to agree to a cease-and-desist order. In particular, they want Rosemond to stop identifying himself as a psychologist, because he is not a licensed psychologist in Kentucky. They also suggest that columns written in a question-and-answer format are a particular concern because they are akin to providing direct mental health services.
Rosemond, an author of 11 parenting books who has a master’s degree in psychology from Western Illinois and is a licensed psychologist in his home state of North Carolina, sees the board’s letter as an effort at censorship and filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court seeking to bar the state from taking any action against him. His column is syndicated through McClatchy-Tribune News services and is estimated to run in more than 200 newspapers, including in Monday’s Herald.
He is represented by the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, which has filed multiple lawsuits challenging what they see as overreach by government licensing boards.
Institute for Justice lawyer Paul Sherman says that under Kentucky’s logic, columnists like Dear Abby and television personalities like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz are breaking the law any time they offer advice, because the content is aired in Kentucky and meets the state’s broad definition of psychological advice.
The institute has filed a variety of challenges to state and federal laws they say are designed to shield special-interest occupations from competition. They recently filed a successful challenge to new IRS rules that would have required many tax preparers to pass a competency exam. They also recently won a case on behalf of Benedictine monks who challenged a Louisiana law that prevented them from making and selling caskets because they were not licensed funeral directors.
The Kentucky board’s actions against Rosemond are particularly egregious, Sherman said, because the state is seeking to regulate a psychologist outside its own borders and because the rules it seeks to enforce are so broad that they could easily interfere with all manner of free speech.
Eva Markham, who chairs the Kentucky psychology board, said Tuesday that the board’s primary point of contention is that Rosemond refers to himself as a psychologist, when he is not licensed in Kentucky. She pointed out that the master’s degree that backs his license in North Carolina would be insufficient in Kentucky.
She said the concerns about the Q-and-A format of the column likely would never have been an issue for the board except for the concerns about his title.
“We don’t care what he writes,” she said. “I see advice columns that are horrendously bad … but we can’t do a thing about it.”