Pastors Protecting Youth et al v. Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General, in her Official Capacity
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable Ronald A. Guzman on 2/15/2017: The Court grants Defendant's motion to dismiss 20 , and this case is dismissed as nonjusticiable. Civil case terminated. [For further details see memorandum opinion and order]. Mailed notice(is, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Pastors Protecting Youth, et al.,
Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General,
in her Official Capacity,
Judge Ronald A. Guzmán
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
The Court grants Defendant’s motion to dismiss , and this case is dismissed as
This case concerns the constitutionality of Illinois’ Youth Mental Health Protection Act
(“YMHPA” or “the Act”), which generally prohibits mental health providers who practice in
“trade or commerce” from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts (i.e., conversion
therapy) with minors. 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 48/20. Plaintiffs are a group of five Illinois pastors
and two unincorporated associations of pastors/churches who believe the YMHPA violates their
First Amendment rights. Particularly, they claim the law has chilled their ability to provide
“pastoral counseling,” such as counseling about sexual identity and homosexuality. Accordingly,
Plaintiffs filed the instant case against defendant Lisa Madigan in her official capacity as Illinois
Attorney General, seeking a declaratory judgment that pastors (including those who are
compensated for their pastoral work) fall outside the YMHPA’s definition of “trade or
commerce” and therefore cannot be held liable under the Act.1 Defendant now moves to dismiss
pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant’s
For purposes of a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or Rule 12(b)(6), the court
accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construes all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff's favor. Scanlan v. Eisenberg, 669 F.3d 838, 841 (7th Cir. 2012). To survive a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must set forth a “‘short and plain statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir.
2008) (citations omitted). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion, in contrast, challenges federal jurisdiction,
and the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the elements necessary for jurisdiction,
including standing, have been met. Scanlan, 669 F.3d at 841-42.
Defendant moves to dismiss on several justiciability grounds, but for the sake of
analytical clarity the Court will frame its discussion in terms of standing.
Article III Section 2 of the Constitution “limits the ‘judicial power’ to the resolution of
‘cases’ and ‘controversies.’” Ind. Right to Life, Inc. v. Shepard, 507 F.3d 545, 549 (7th Cir.
2007) (citation omitted). A case or controversy requires a claim that is ripe and a plaintiff who
has standing. Id. Whereas ripeness is concerned with when an action may be brought, standing
focuses on who may bring a ripe action. Id. In pre-enforcement challenges such as this case,
however, the two concepts tend to merge, and the central question is whether the plaintiff can
Technically, the Complaint includes one prayer for relief requesting eight declarations (the first
of which is stated above). The remaining relief consists of declarations that the YMHPA, as
applied to Plaintiffs and their counselees, violates various portions of the United States
Constitution, the Illinois Constitution, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
demonstrate a credible threat of enforcement (or reasonable likelihood of future harm) from the
challenged law. See Wis. Right to Life, Inc. v. Schober, 366 F.3d 485, 489 (7th Cir. 2004). Put
differently, persons who have only speculative fears that a statute will be applied against them
are not appropriate plaintiffs. See Babbitt v. United Farm Workers Nat. Union, 442 U.S. 289, 298
(1979); Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 42 (1971).
Here, the crux of Plaintiffs’ claim is their belief that the pastoral services they offer are
within the meaning of “trade or commerce” in the YMHPA. Put best by Plaintiffs themselves:
Section 25 of the Act applies to anyone who, in “trade or commerce” offers
conversion therapy services. Because the government has traditionally taken an
expansive view of “commerce,” it is unclear to Plaintiffs whether their counseling
services, which they are compensated for as ministers and which are an
alternative to professional counseling, are “in trade or commerce.”
(Pls.’ Br. [Dkt. # 27] at 2.) The YMHPA does not define “trade or commerce,” however, which
means this case is essentially one of statutory interpretation. To that end, Plaintiffs rely upon (1)
the language of the YMHPA, (2) the United States Supreme Court’s commerce clause
jurisprudence, and (3) other Illinois statutes that define “trade or commerce” to include
“services” and acts performed within one’s “vocation or occupation” — all of which, on
Plaintiffs’ account, plausibly suggest that religious counseling is “commerce.” The Court finds
The YMHPA’s Text and Legislative History
As a federal court interpreting Illinois law, the Court defers to Illinois’ rules of statutory
interpretation. United States v. Woodland, 607 F. Supp. 2d 904, 911 (C.D. Ill. 2009). In that
respect, where a statute has not been judicially interpreted, as is the case here, Illinois courts are
guided by both the statute’s plain language and the legislative intent behind it. People v. Hanna,
800 N.E.2d 1201, 1207 (Ill. 2003); Lake Cty. Bd. of Review v. Prop. Tax Appeal Bd., 548 N.E.2d
1129, 1136 (Ill. App. Ct. 1989).
Section 25 of the YMPHA — the provision under which Plaintiffs fear prosecution —
reads as follows:
No person or entity may, in the conduct of any trade or commerce, use or employ
any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the
concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact in advertising or
otherwise offering conversion therapy services in a manner that represents
homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness, with intent that others rely
upon the concealment, suppression, or omission of such material fact. A violation
of this section constitutes an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud and
Deceptive Business Practices Act.
405 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 48/25. According to Plaintiffs, Section 25 “goes beyond regulating
licensed ‘mental health providers’ and instead regulates ‘any person or entity’. . . . [I]t also
prohibits any person or entity . . . from ‘offering conversation therapy services.’” (Pls.’ Br. [Dkt.
# 27] at 2.) Thus, they claim that a plain reading of Section 25 threatens pastors with financial
liability under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act (“CFA”), 815
Ill. Comp. Stat §§ 505/1-505/12. But there are several problems with this analysis.
Above all, Plaintiff’s interpretation fails to consider the language in Section 25 as a
whole. Its prohibitions begin with a significant qualifier: “in the conduct of any trade or
commerce.” 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 48/25. Although the YMHPA does not define “trade or
commerce,” the ordinary meaning of these terms does not suggest they apply to private religious
counseling. See Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014) (defining “commerce” as “[t]he
exchange of goods and services, esp. on a large scale involving transportation between cities,
states, and countries” and defining “trade” as “[t]he business of buying and selling or bartering
goods or services.”).2
The Illinois Supreme Court considers Black’s Law Dictionary a valid source for determining
the ordinary meaning of undefined terms. See, e.g., People v. Petrenko, 931 N.E.2d 1198, 1213
Similarly, Plaintiffs misread Section 25 as prohibiting persons from “offering conversion
therapy.” This phrase, too, must be read in context. The text preceding “offering conversion
therapy” states that no person or entity may (a) use or employ fraud/deception/etc. in
“advertising or otherwise offering conversion therapy services.” 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 48/25
(emphasis added). The “or” here is conjunctive rather than disjunctive, meaning that
“advertising” and “offering conversion” therapy are one group of actions modified by the
preceding clause (a). Moreover, the operative verbs in clause (a) (“use” or “employ”) have as
their objects various deceptive practices that may occur in the context of advertising or offering
conversion therapy. That is to say, “offering conversion therapy” is not what is prohibited;
instead, Section 25 prohibits persons from deceptively advertising or misrepresenting conversion
therapy in the marketplace; an interpretation that marshals support from its very title —
“Advertisement and sales; misrepresentation.” 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 48/25. Taken together, the
ordinary meaning of “trade” and “commerce,” combined with the above construction of Section
25, renders Plaintiffs’ fears of prosecution unfounded.3
This conclusion is further supported by a reading of the YMHPA as a whole. Apart from
the Act’s enumerated purpose, definitions section, and legislative findings, which offer no
insight about whether the Act applies to religious counseling, there are only three operative
Only one of the plaintiff pastors in this case states that he wishes to advertise his counseling
services but has avoided doing so because he fears prosecution under the YMHPA. (See
Teesdale Decl. [Dkt. # 1, Ex. B] at 2.) Yet his fears, like Plaintiffs’ generally, are unfounded
because he has not suggested that such advertising would be for commercial purposes (i.e., “in
trade or commerce”).
Section 20, entitled “Prohibition on Conversion Therapy,” which prohibits licensed
“mental health providers”4 from offering conversion therapy to minors. 405 Ill. Comp.
Stat. § 45/20;
Section 30, entitled “Discipline,” which provides that mental health providers who
engage in conversion therapy with minors may “be subject to discipline by the licensing
entity or review board with competent jurisdiction.” 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 45/30; and
Section 25, entitled “Advertising and Sales; misrepresentation.” 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. §
Thus, it is clear that the Act’s only penalties apply to mental health professionals or to those who
deceptively advertise conversion therapy for commercial purposes. Plaintiffs fit neither mold.
Lastly, to the extent the phrase “trade or commerce” in the YMHPA is ambiguous, its
legislative history5 resolves any doubt. The co-sponsors of the bill creating the Act expressly
stated that it does not apply to religious counseling. See Senate Hr’g on H.B. 217, Ill. 99th Gen.
Assem., Sen. Tr. at 48 (May 29, 2015) (Stmt. of Sen. Biss) (“Here’s what [the bill] does: It
affects minors only and it affects licensed professionals only . . . . It doesn’t ban therapy . . . . It
doesn’t address religious or non-licensed professionals. It simply says that licensed professionals
can’t engage in [conversion therapy] with minors.”); id. at 65 (Stmt. of Sen. Koehler) (“That’s
right. This bill does not apply at all to a member of the clergy.”). As such, Plaintiffs’ fears of
“Mental health provider” means “a clinical psychologist licensed under the Clinical Psychology
Licensing Act; a school psychologist as defined in the School Code; a psychiatrist as defined in
Section 1-121 of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code [405 ILCS 5/1-121]; a
clinical social worker or social worker licensed under the Clinical Social Work and Social Work
Practice Act [225 ILCS 20/1 et seq.]; a marriage and family therapist or associate marriage and
family therapist licensed under the Marriage and Family Therapy Licensing Act [225 ILCS
55/1 et seq.]; a professional counselor or clinical professional counselor licensed under the
Professional Counselor and Clinical Professional Counselor Licensing and Practice Act [225
ILCS 107/1 et seq.]; or any students, interns, volunteers, or other persons assisting or acting
under the direction or guidance of any of these licensed professionals.” 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. §
In ascertaining the meaning of ambiguous statutory language, it is appropriate to use extrinsic
material such as legislative history. See Solon v. Midwest Med. Records Ass’n, Inc., 925 N.E.2d
1113, 1119 (Ill. 2010).
prosecution lose all significance when considered against the statute’s plain language and its
legislative history. See Word of Faith World Outreach Ctr. Church, Inc. v. Morales, 787 F. Supp.
689, 697 (W.D. Tex. 1992), rev’d on other grounds, 986 F.2d 967 (5th Cir. 1993) (interpreting a
similar anti-conversion-therapy statute and concluding that it does not apply to religious
Other Sources of Meaning
Still, given that the phrase “trade or commerce” is undefined in the YMHPA, Plaintiffs
further insist that it could be applied against them because (1) the Supreme Court’s commerce
clause jurisprudence shows that the government has traditionally taken an expansive view of
“commerce” and (2) other Illinois statutes define “trade or commerce” in a way that plausibly
places religious counseling within their scope. Not so.
Commerce Clause Cases
Plaintiffs rely on two commerce clause cases: Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 11, 125
(1942) (holding that Congress’s power to regulate “commerce” extends to in-home activities that
have an “indirect effect” on trade, viz., home-grown wheat) and Nat’l Fed’n of Indep. Bus v.
Sebelius, 132 S. Ct. 2566, 2621-22 (2012) (Ginsburg J., dissenting) (suggesting that commercial
“inactivity” falls within Congress’s regulatory power under the commerce clause). These
holdings do not speak for themselves, however, and Plaintiffs have failed to make any argument
connecting them to the facts of this case — a shortcoming that runs dangerously close to waiver.
More to the point, neither case so much as hints that Congress may regulate religious
counseling under the commerce clause, and their facts are easily distinguishable. Wheat, for
example, is a fungible good that can be bought and sold in a marketplace. And the “inactivity”
referred to in National Federation of Independent Businesses was an individual’s refusal to
participate in the Affordable Care Act, where the failure to participate in the market had a clear
causal impact on the viability of the marketplace itself (the insurance industry). 132 S. Ct. at
2622. The same cannot be said of religious counseling. Plaintiffs have not suggested that they
market their services for a fee or sell a product, so they are not market participants. Indeed, all
they allude to by way of economic activity is how they are compensated for their services
(donations). Yet the very nature of donations is charity, not a quid pro quo for goods or services.
Accordingly, the government’s “expansive view” of commerce has no application here. See Doe
v. Holy See, 557 F.3d 1066, 1097 (9th Cir. 2009) (Fernandez, J., concurring) (“Is hearing
confessions and giving religious advice -- an age-old function of churches -- really no more than
a commercial activity similar to psychological counseling? . . . . I think not. Normal legal usage
and common sense recoil from these possibilities.”).
Other Illinois Statutes
Finally, Plaintiffs rely on inapposite portions of the CFA and the Illinois Uniform
Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“UDTPA”), 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 501/1-501/7, to ground their
claim that “trade and commerce” could apply to religious counseling. Particularly, they note that
(1) the CFA defines “trade or commerce” to include the “distribution of services” that may
“directly or indirectly affect” Illinois citizens, and that (2) the UDTPA enumerates certain
“services” that are deceptive as a matter of law, which supports Plaintiffs’ fear that religious
services are commerce. (Pls.’ Br. at 2.) Neither argument succeeds.
To be sure, Plaintiffs’ CFA argument has some purchase. The statute defines “trade” and
“commerce” as “the advertising, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of any services and any
property, tangible or intangible, real, personal or mixed, and any other article, commodity, or
thing of value wherever situated, and shall include any trade or commerce directly or indirectly
affecting the people of this State.” 815 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 505/1. This could be taken to mean that
the CFA covers advertising or offering religious services. But the way the CFA has been
interpreted by Illinois courts counsels against this result. Although no Illinois court has
considered this precise issue, they have nonetheless interpreted the terms “trade” and
“commerce” in the CFA to exclude professional services such as the practice of law, medicine,
and dentistry — with the rationale being that those services do not involve the typical
buyer/seller relationship contemplated by the CFA. See Tkacz v. Weiner, 858 N.E.2d 514, 517
(Ill. App. Ct. 2006); Feldstein v. Guinan, 499 N.E.2d 535, 538 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986). That
rationale applies doubly so in this case, since Plaintiffs’ private, free religious counseling
services are even further removed from commerce than, say, law and medicine.6
The UDTPA is similarly of no moment. Plaintiffs rely on Section 2, which provides that
“[a] person engages in deceptive trade practice when, in the court of his or her business,
vocation, or occupation, the person . . . . (5) represents that goods or services have sponsorship . .
. . (7) represents that goods or services are of a particular standard . . . . (12) engages in any other
conduct which similarly creates a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding.” 815 Ill. Comp.
Stat. § 505/2 (emphasis added). Nothing in Section 2, however, defines “trade or commerce,”
and Plaintiffs have not made any argument explaining why the UDTPA’s enumerated deceptive
trade practices are probative of the meaning of “trade and commerce” in the YMHPA (a separate
statute in a distinct section of the Illinois code). Indeed, the only remote overlap between the two
The Court further notes that while Illinois courts sometimes look to other statutes’ definitions
to construe the meaning of an undefined term (e.g., the YMHPA’s “trade or commerce” vs. the
CFA’s “trade” and “commerce”), this method of interpretation is typically used only when moreprimary sources of meaning are unhelpful (e.g., plain language or legislative intent). See In re
Application for Tax Deed, 723 N.E.2d 1186, 1190 (2000) (“There is a limit to the use of a
definition from another statute because words must be construed in the context in which they are
presented.”). Given the preceding discussion of the YMHPA’s language and legislative history,
the Court finds the CFA’s definitions of “trade” and “commerce” to be of limited value.
statutes is the term “services.” But without any principle or case law connecting commercial
services and religious services, Plaintiffs’ argument simply doesn’t get off the ground.
In the end, the entirety of Plaintiffs’ case rests on a mistaken interpretation of the law,
and the Court therefore finds that their fears of prosecution are too remote to support standing.
See Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1555-56 (2016) (explaining that abstract, perceived
harm cannot substitute for the concrete injury required by Article III).
For the reasons set forth above, the Court grants Defendant’s motion to dismiss , and
this case is dismissed as nonjusticiable.
ENTERED: February 15, 2017
HON. RONALD A. GUZMÁN
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?