5 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 127 (1975)
The Theology of Therapy: The Breach of the First Amendment through the Medicalization of Morals

handle is hein.journals/nyuls5 and id is 133 raw text is: THE THEOLOGY OF THERAPY:
THE BREACH OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT
THROUGH THE MEDICALIZATION OF MORALS:
THOMAS S. SZASZ*
I
Expressing the essence of a nation in a single image is more like drawing a
person's caricature than like painting his portrait. As a good caricature reveals
more about a person than does his portrait, so the true symbol of a nation
reveals more about it than do its formal self-definitions.
We have no difficulty in compressing the spirit of America into a single
word, symbol, or image. That word is liberty. To understand the concept of
liberty, and especially its characteristically American formation and deforma-
tion, it is necessary to understand the interests and institutions that encourage
and impede its development. I shall assume that, in our national experience,
we recognize the rule of law in general and the first amendment in particular as
encouraging and indeed creating liberty. I shall argue that we ought similarly to
recognize medicine in general, and psychiatry in particular, as impeding and
indeed destroying liberty. The gist of my thesis will be that as the founding
fathers regarded coercive religion not as religion but as repression, and hence
incompatible with the American political system, so we should regard coercive
medicine and especially psychiatry not as therapy but as tyranny, and hence
equally inconsistent with the spirit of American liberty.
II
Sometimes it is convenient to view nations as if, like individuals, they pass
through a life cycle of childhood and youth, adulthood and maturity, old age
and senescense, and finally die. Consider the imagery that this metaphor gen-
erates: the American continent, dormant and virginal; the development of colo-
nial America under the protection of the mother country; the severance by the
young adult of his ties to his parents; the Declaration of Independence; the
self-development of the new nation, in a bare century-and-a-half, to the freest,
richest, strongest, and most envied people on the face of the earth.
What are the main obstacles facing a young person in his quest for inde-
pendent adulthood? On the one hand, there are the external obstacles-in par-
ticular, parents and other adults, who, whether altruistically seeking to protect
a weaker person, or egotistically seeking to prey upon him, endeavor to keep
* Copyright © 1976, by Thomas S. Szasz. Presented at the Bicentennial Conference. Amer-
ican Law: The Third Century, New York University School of Law, April 27-30, 1976.
** A.B. 1941, M.D., 1944, University of Cincinnati. Professor of Psychiatry. State Unikersity
of New York, Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse. New York.
127

Imaged with the Permission of N.Y.U. Review of Law and Social Change

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