Monday, November 18, 2013

Update on Clergy and Florida Law

Recently a local attorney challenged the validity of clergy performing counseling services. A local judge stated to the counseling client “next time use a licensed counselor.” The attorney tried to make the claim that the client did not meet the requirements of a court order because he chose clergy for his counseling services.

Below is a copy of my letter to Judge Brodie. My counseling client won his case, and has already had his first additional visit with his child. Below is an excerpt from Judge Grieder’s court order.

This is an important victory for all clergy in the state of Florida. We are eager to inform our fellow clergy that not only does the Florida Statute exist, but it has now been upheld by case law. As counseling clergy we will no longer be considered to have second class status in the Florida courts. 
Whatever you can do to spread the word will be appreciated.

Reverend Sam Sewell
Director Best Self USA

Judge Lauren L. Brodie
Collier County Government Complex
3315 Tamiami Trail East, Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112

Your Honor,

Damage is being done by an inaccurate comment made by you in court. I was a witness in that case. Your reputation for competency and integrity convinces me that the consequences of your comments do not reflect your intentions.

After I testified at a divorce trial about the counseling work I had done with Mr. and Mrs. XXXXXX, you stated to the ex-husband, “Next time use a licensed therapist.”  Unfortunately, your statement is an overt disregard of Florida law, and a challenge to the legal status of all clergy. Pastoral Psychotherapy is a recognized profession in all 50 states. However, I realize that many people are unaware of this fact.

Because of Constitutional precedent, secular government does not have the authority to license clergy. Although a license is not available to clergy in the state of Florida, you implied to the ex-husband that he could not use clergy for therapy. This would be an issue impacting on the credibility of all clergy. The Florida statute below should make the issue clear.


491.014 Exemptions
(3) No provision of this chapter shall be construed to limit the performance of activities of a rabbi, priest, minister, or member of the clergy of any religious denomination or sect, or use of the terms "Christian counselor" or "Christian clinical counselor" when the activities are within the scope of the performance of his or her regular or specialized ministerial duties and no compensation is received by him or her, or when such activities are performed, with or without compensation, by a person for or under the auspices or sponsorship, individually or in conjunction with others, of an established and legally cognizable church, denomination, or sect, and when the person rendering service remains accountable to the established authority thereof.

Furthermore, I recently became aware that a local attorney is using your comment as a tactic to claim that the ex-husband did not meet the requirements of a court order because he used me as his therapist. I do not believe that was your intent.  If it had, in fact, been your intent, we must face a plethora of other church/state issues.  

I want your comment corrected, and the consequences of said comment to be rectified.  I request that such action be taken promptly. 
Rev. Samuel Sewell
Samuel O. Sewell

Here is a summary of my qualifications:

Rev. Sewell began serving in SW Florida in early 1980s as Pastoral Counselor at Grace Presbyterian Church in San Carlos Park.

In 1985 Rev. Sewell took the position of Director of Children’s Ministries at North Naples United Methodist Church, where he guided the children’s program through the state licensing process, so that the church could be designated as a state licensed day care facility. That project was concluded January 28, 1986.

Rev. Sewell then began working at Lely Presbyterian Church as a Pastoral Therapist.
In October of 1987 Rev Sewell changed his affiliation to Moorings Presbyterian Church and founded an independent counseling ministry. At this time he remains A member of Moorings Presbyterian and Director of Best Self USA, a nationwide counseling and life skills clinic.
Rev. Sewell presently serves as Director of Pastoral Counseling for Celebration Community Beach Church.

Rev. Samuel Sewell is a member of Mensa, the high I.Q. Society, where he serves as a Gifted Youth Coordinator. 

Rev. Sewell is Adjunct Professor of Clinical Pastoral Education at Naples Community Hospital.

Rev. Sewell is President of the Board of Directors for the Theological Center in Naples, an Educational Institution which has sponsored the annual “Soup for the Soul” project for fifteen years.

Rev. Sewell does training on family issues at several area churches.

Rev. Sewell’s award winning research on Family Issues is published in several languages.

Rev. Sewell is a member of Sigma Delta Chi Honor Society

Rev. Sewell is an International Commentator and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, a frequent commentator on religious and political issues. 

Rev. Sewell’s Department of Health and Human Services National Provider Identification is 1922317536. 

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