“A victory for Heather will protect her right to engage in occupational speech and will affirm the right of Floridians to decide for themselves which speakers are worth listening to.”
Annie Blanks @DestinLogAnnie
FORT WALTON BEACH — A local health coach is taking on the Florida Department of Health in a First Amendment lawsuit after she said she was forbidden from providing dietary advice to her customers.
According to a press release from the Institute for Justice, the law firm representing the coach, Heather Kokesch Del Castillo of Fort Walton Beach “is a privately certified health coach and the founder of Constitution Nutrition, through which she provided personalized, diet, nutrition and fitness advice to paying customers.”
According to the release, Del Castillo practiced her business in California before moving to Fort Walton Beach when her military husband was transferred. She said she continued being a health coach until officials from the Florida Department of Health fined her $750 and ordered her to stop providing dietary advice until she got a license.
Del Castillo’s lawyers say getting a dietician license is “burdensome” and would require Del Castillo to go through hundreds of hours of classes and training.
“Under the First Amendment, adults are allowed to talk to other adults about what to buy at the grocery store,” Del Castillo’s lawyers said in the press release. “A victory for Heather will protect her right to engage in occupational speech and will affirm the right of Floridians to decide for themselves which speakers are worth listening to.”
In a statement emailed to the Northwest Florida Daily News, Brad Dalton, Deputy Press Secretary for the Florida Department of Health, said dieticians and nutritionists are licensed professions by the state and require the appropriate licensing.
“The department has a robust health care licensing process which thoroughly reviews applications to ensure that only individuals qualified by education and experience obtain a license,” Dalton said. “A top priority in the licensure process is the protection of the health, safety and welfare of patients in the Florida. Receiving any health care from an unlicensed person is dangerous and could result in further injury.”