No Free Speech Without a License!

State licensing boards are trying to prevent unlicensed citizens from even talking about certain subjects. Here are some of the latest gag orders.

In May, newspaper advice columnist John Rosemond received a cease-and-desist letter from the Kentucky attorney general’s office on behalf of the state’s Board of Examiners of Psychology because Rosemond dispensed advice to his readers without having a Kentucky psychology license. Rosemond is a licensed family psychologist in North Carolina, has written numerous books, and is syndicated in over 200 newspapers! The letter also stated that because Rosemond is only licensed to practice psychology in North Carolina, he may not call himself a “family psychologist” in the tagline of his newspaper column.

The public was understandably outraged, prompting the board to do some serious backpedaling, speciously claiming that it did not attempt to censor Rosemond’s advice column. He has now filed suit in federal court to defend his First Amendment rights.

Regular readers will recall our story on Steve Cooksey, a blogger in North Carolina. The state’s Board of Dietetics/Nutrition wanted to prevent him from offering free nutrition advice based on personal experience—even to his friends over the phone. Cooksey also sued. Just recently, in a significant win for free speech, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals held that Cooksey has legal standing in the case and the lawsuit can go forward. This is a big win.

The North Carolina board has attempted to chill free speech numerous times, having been involved in the investigation and surveillance of nearly fifty people and organizations in the state over the past five years—athletic trainers, a nurse, a pharmacist, and even Duke University’s Integrative Medicine department. All have been accused of the same “crime”: practicing nutrition without a license.

Now the Cooksey case goes back to federal court in North Carolina, where the merits of the case will be decided—whether the dietetics practice law is constitutional or not. Certainly the 4th Circuit Court seems to be on Cooksey’s side.

It’s not just Southern states having this problem. Remember that it was the state of Washington’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission (MQAC) that recently ordered integrative physician Jonathan Wright, MD, to draft a paper on the importance of licensure, even though MQAC was itself responsible for the alleged employee licensing violation that led to the order, because it knowingly posted misleading and deceptive information on its website. Forcing Dr. Wright to write an essay telling MQAC what it wants to hear is a profound violation of his right to free speech, as will no doubt be argued in his appeal to the courts.

As state-sanctioned licensing boards continue to proliferate, the trend of limiting free speech is increasing—almost without exception as a tool for the board to protect the professional turf of licensed practitioners. In the 1950s, only one in twenty US workers needed government permission—for that is what licensure is—to pursue their chosen occupation. Today, it is closer to one in three. Yet there is little evidence that licensing protects public health and safety or improves products and services. It does, however, increase consumer costs and reduce opportunities for workers. Utah’s cosmetology licensing board recently prevented a hairdresser from doing hair extensions without a license. Does anyone really believe that’s a public safety issue?

Licensing boards create strict scope-of-practice regulations so that only licensed people can practice—which automatically creates a monopoly on the field. State dietetic boards in particular are following this strategy in their attempt to monopolize the practice of medical nutrition therapy. Happily, we’ve recently seen numerous victories in state legislatures where new dietetics board bills had been introduced—twelve such bills were defeated in 2012!

Mainstream media is starting to pay attention to the issue, and the anti-competitive behavior of boards is even drawing the attention of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC investigated the North Carolina dental board over its attempts to monopolize the teeth whitening business, and found it had illegally thwarted competition through cease-and-desist letters. The Alabama dental board is attacking its unlicensed teeth whitening competitors, but the FTC may not be able to intervene there because state law defines “dental service” very broadly.

The FTC is also scrutinizing state laws and practices that foster anticompetitive behavior by physicians, such as the scope-of-practice restrictions supported by physicians who trying to monopolize their field. In Tennessee, for example, until recently, only physicians were allowed to provide interventional pain management services. The state legislature wrote a bill eliminating that restriction—and FTC weighed in with its support, to the consternation of conventional doctors in the state. Happily, the bill passed.

The battle continues. “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must…undergo the fatigue of supporting it,” Thomas Paine famously wrote. We must stay vigilant and assert our constitutional rights whenever they are in danger of being taken away from us.


  1. The fatigue of upholding freedomThomas Paine talks about here is made necessary only by the dark imbeciles who would seek to impede it.

  2. You know its for the best . We The People should have no rights . We The People should only be thought about during election time and only then be forced to vote for a politically correct candidate. I mean , This educated bunch of Doctors and Hospitals are doing such great job in health care ??? The Government is running so smooth and efficient ,We should have no worries of future issues. They have a handle on the heath care , budget , food , vaccines , IRS , NSA , FEMA , ETC ETC that we should all go to sleep without a worry . Remember that our government is number one . Our education system is number one , Our health care is number one . What we need to do is ask who came up with that lie (OUR GOVERNMENT?) I’m not only worried ,I’m scared to death of our Terrorist USA GOVERNMENT …. Let Freedom Ring

  3. We live in a (govt?) SAVE ME society.
    The PTB seem to think they can regulate the world to be idiot proof, but as the old saying goes: they will just make a better idiot. Then they get elected, or take govt office i think.
    Fork ’em all. i’ll say what i believe and take the consequences.

  4. It’s absolutely insidious. I went into waitressing because it always guaranteed me a quick check. Now – not only do I need to be “trained” by every restaurant I work in, in spite of the fact that all of it is the same as other restaurants and in the past, I have to be “licensed” to work in a place that serves alcohol, and if you want to make any money, that’s where to go.
    So this means that I’ve been to 4 DUI classes at 7am on a Sunday. ( I move a lot, therefore, many jobs)
    And I get to pay over $100 for the privilege of learning nothing. Your tax dollars at work.
    Really? Who does this benefit?

  5. I am not in favor of governmental interference in many aspects of our lives (although encroachment appears to be oozing in all around), but it appears that the FTC needs to continue to scrutinize attempts to restrict “free” information/ research/ experiences, etc., — especially in the areas of nutrition. Mainstream media doesn’t seem to report the violations and encroachments.

  6. How many people do you think are practicing nutrition without a license under these broad definitions? Moms? Grandmas? Teachers? Bloggers? Magazines?
    How much time and money is wasted on all of this stupidity? Do you think that all of these highly educated people could find a way to actually contribute to a healthy society instead of continually trying to tear it down for self serving purposes?

  7. I guess someone got up and took a big STUPID pill and decided that our constitution isn’t good enough and they are too STUPID to improve it. How sad. How horrible. Please someone – stop this insanity. NOW.

  8. While I agree with the spirit of your article, I think you need to be careful to not so broadly place licensing in a negative light. Recently, after years of prodding from professionals in the Naturopathic field (and people like me who are their patients) the Colorado legislature finally passed a bill to regulate Naturopathic Doctors (as do many states). It gives respect to those individuals who have spent the years of education necessary to be the professionals that they are. My wife, was a chiropractor, acupuncturist and holistic practitioner. Some years ago, one of her patients, a massage therapist, decided she wanted to do more in her career, so she took a one-year correspondence course in “naturopathy” and promptly set up an office as a naturopathic practitioner. She was dismayed. Her comment to me was, “She knows just enough to be dangerous to anyone who comes to her seeking health advice.” People deserve to know who in natural healthcare is educated enough to actually know what they’re doing.
    When it comes to dietitians trying to monopolize nutrition, however, I agree with you. The latest federal “food pyramid” was called into question almost as soon as it was made public. Many holistic nutritional researchers have said it’s unbalanced. I think those legislatures that said no to the dietitians wisely felt that no one group can dictate what everyone should be eating to maintain health.

  9. Free Speech! Our batik. Is founded in this. We deserve free speech. If anyone causes harm through written word, television, radio or web broadcast…there is always manslaughter charges and civil suits.
    The only law should be they need to make note they are NOT the beginning of a b

  10. Already in place are options calling for manslaughter & civil suits. An option is to have people state they are NOT licensed at each break in the show & in print.
    Free speech-the heart of America. Thanks.

    1. I believe this is not only an attempt to limit information from those not lisenced but as the article states health care workers are trying to protect their turd. This also gives government an opportunity to collect revenue from licensure to these professionals. If this becomes law then the bureaucratic system will only further complicate the legal boundaries of practice and reduce our freedoms. As a health practioner I would also be limited from patients who cross borders for healthcare or books I may write to teach others about general information.

  11. If you read this story, and think about it, the State of Kentucky believes that newspaper columns and books can transmit “psychological treatment”…Therefore, I should be able to get ALL my HEALTHCARE from the *BIBLE*…!!!…lol…
    But, seriously, I DO get ALL my psychological healthcare treatment from the Bible!…
    Thank-you, Kentucky…

  12. One of the many reasons we need national licensing, rather than 50 different states = DC and territories doing tons of different things! Educational degrees- like BS, MPH, PhD all = same thing no matter where in USA granted, so why should RNs, DDSs, MDs, (on & on) not have same requirements in entire country? ANSWER- it’s about the politics of power and each state’s Board of (insert occupation name) doesn’t want to give it up, no matter how poor a job evidence shows they do in that particular state!

  13. Many licensure boards are a scam to bring in money to create more government jobs and to guarantee a lock-out by certain trade organizations. I couldn’t believe when I moved to Oregon how many jobs and trades here require a license that did not require one in Colorado where I am from. In a time where jobs for trades people are scarce and a time of change, we need less licensure. There is no room for creating new areas of work and promoting new ideas when everything has to fit into an old mold. YES, Naturopathic doctors should be licensed. Healers of body and mind whether through nutrition, advice, body work, energy work, counseling should not have to be licensed. It should be up to the buyer to choose what they want. Some people may want a psychologist to counsel them, some may want an enlightened, experienced shaman/guru type of person- we can check the credentials- don’t need the some at the state offices collecting $50,000 per year and PERS to “protect” us. In a “free” country someone should not have to have a “license” to paint our house or hang wallpaper. WTF?!

    1. Counselors and other such professionals should absolutely be licensed. Boards are in place to verify that continuing education credits have been met, that the counselors maintain liability insurance in case they are sued, they verify supervision hours and accreditation of graduate schools, they maintain a professional code of ethics and monitor inappropriate practices. As a professional counselor, it seemed a hassle to jump through the hoops, but it is necessary to guarantee that qualified individuals are doing appropriate work.
      Every state is allowed to create different rules for obtaining licensure. It is always important to stay up-to-date on licensure where one hopes to practice. There is specific training involved to learn the ability to do no harm and recognize if/when it occurs.
      I certainly wouldn’t see or trust a “counselor” who isn’t licensed in their state.

  14. Two important points worth considering. If, as many licensed practitioners claim, licensing’s primary function is to “protect the public,” then we should expect to see the patients of the most heavily licensed profession, medical doctor, having almost no adverse events. As we all know, the converse is the actual truth. In their paper “Death by Medicine,” Gary Null, PhD, and Carolyn Dean, MD, show, via over 150 peer-reviewed sources, that the leading cause of death in this country is conventional medicine, to the tune of over 783,000 annual deaths.
    Further, in his expose on, investigative reporter Michael Ellsberg reveals, via documents leaked by whistle blowers, that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ true agenda is not to “protect the public,” but to protect the profession.
    We in the Texas Health freedom coalition believe it would take but one successful federal lawsuit, based on alleged violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, against just one of the licensed professions to take down this whole house of cards. It’s long past time that this happens.

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