The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the simple fact that some, if not all, freedoms are intertwined. Specifically, the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom of Religion, both guaranteed in the First Amendment, are intertwined. In order to have the right to believe and practice religion as we choose, we must be free to share our thoughts and feelings on religious and moral topics with other people without the fear of legal consequences.
Kelsey Dallas recently shared an interesting article on the intertwined rights. She writes in her article that the free speech clause in the First Amendment “was once best known for protecting civil rights activists and anti-war protesters,” but it now “plays a growing role in cases affecting conservative religious Americans.” She uses two recent decisions by the Supreme Court to prove her point.
Two of the most notable religion cases before the Supreme Court last term hinged on free speech claims. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the justices considered whether pregnancy centers that oppose abortion rights should be forced to share information about abortion access. In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a Christian baker described his wedding cakes as a form of speech, asking to be protected from having to express support for same-sex marriage by selling a cake to an LGBT couple.
The Supreme Court sided with the conservative religious plaintiffs in both cases, although Masterpiece Cakeshop ultimately wasn’t decided on free speech grounds.
Dallas says that Christians, particularly Evangelical Christians, watched the above Supreme Court cases carefully because Biblical teachings and morals are decreasing less popular to Americans. A growing number of Americans have different viewpoints on many principles that Christians believe.
One case in point is same-sex marriage. A growing number of Americans approve of same-sex marriage although Christians continue to believe that it is immoral. This belief has caused more legal conflict for Christians, who are now in the cultural minority.
When anyone has an unpopular viewpoint, such as Evangelical Christians’ belief in Biblical principles, they are more likely to need the protection of the free speech clause of the First Amendment. A person with the majority viewpoint has the same protection but less need for it. After sharing these ideas, Dallas gives several examples of people and companies that ran into legal and employment problems because they held the minority viewpoint.
The chief executive officer of Mozilla, a software company, stepped down in 2014 after his opposition to same-sex marriage led to calls for a boycott of Mozilla Firefox, a popular web browser. Chick-fil-A restaurants dealt with protesters and boycotts in 2012 after the company CEO suggested that God rejects same-sex marriage. Just last month, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for tweeting support for Chick-fil-A, after an outcry from users.
No one should be forced to say, write, or create something that goes against their religious beliefs. “Force” includes shunning, boycotting, protesting, causing people to lose their employment, etc. However, all of us should be more tolerant with people who are different than us or who believe differently than us.
More than 150 years ago the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote a statement that could help all of us. In a statement that includes thirteen basic beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet includes the following: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
This statement may apply more in our day than when it was written. We must all learn to tolerate differences and get along with each other no matter our religious or moral beliefs. It is good that we have Freedom of Speech in order to protect our Freedom of Religion.