Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Freedom from Compelled Speech

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the Freedom of Speech, specifically the freedom from being forced to say things in words or actions against one’s will. The U.S. Supreme Court listened to arguments earlier in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. According to David French at The National Review, it is now “considering whether the government can compel Americans to express or support ideas they find repugnant.” 

            French says that the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra case is much more dangerous than Masterpiece Cakeshop and it “has almost entirely escaped public attention.” He continues with the following comments.

If anything, the violation of the First Amendment in the NIFLA case is more egregious, and the implications potentially more far-reaching. As readers almost certainly recall, the issue in Masterpiece Cakeshop was whether the state of Colorado could compel a Christian baker to design a cake for a gay wedding. One of the state’s principal arguments against the baker’s First Amendment claim was that designing a custom cake wasn’t an expressive act, so forcing him to design a cake wasn’t compelled speech.

The NIFLA case, however, is unquestionably about compelled speech. The state of California has enacted a law, the so-called FACT Act, that requires pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers to prominently place a notice informing clients that California offers low-cost and even free abortions to women who qualify and providing them a phone number that grants quick access to abortion clinics.

In other words, California is requiring pro-life professionals – people who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting the unborn by offering pregnant mothers alternatives to abortion – to advertise state-sponsored abortions. California is making this demand even though it has ample opportunity to advertise state services without forcing pro-life citizens to do so. The state can rent billboard space on the very streets where crisis-pregnancy centers are located. It can hand out leaflets on the sidewalk. It can advertise on television and the radio. It can advertise on the Internet or social media. But rather than using its own voice, it is co-opting the voices of its pro-life citizens, forcing them to join its pro-abortion crusade.

And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the FACT Act is constitutional. To validate California’s oppressive act, its decision carved out a dangerous First Amendment exception for what it deemed “professional speech” – “speech that occurs between professionals and their clients in the context of their professional relationship” – and ruled that the state had much greater leeway in regulating, for example, doctor/patient communication.

            I did not hear about this case until I read French’s article. It appears that there are a lot more Freedom of Speech cases making their way through the court system than we know. The NIFLA case seems to be one that we need to watch. I am grateful for people like David French who are willing to fight for our freedoms. He filed an amicus brief in the NIFLA case and then alerted American citizens. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will stop this plan to destroy free speech.

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