A government that tells you what you can’t say is dangerous, but a government that tells you what you must say — under threat of severe punishment — is alarming.
Today, before the United States Supreme Court justices, I argued on behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates that the California law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions is unlawful government-compelled expression.
The state of California, at the behest of the abortion industry, is using its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to be complicit in abortion by telling women how to get one free or at a reduced cost. Even worse, AB775 specifically targets these small non-profit organizations that exist to provide women with life-affirming information they may not otherwise receive.
Other federal courts have already recognized that this type of government compelled speech violates the foundation of the freedom we have in the America, making the 9th Circuit’s denial of free speech the exception rather than the rule. In fact, courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Texas, Maryland, and New York City.
When the government decides what people should and should not say, other freedoms are sure to disappear soon after. The government exists to serve its people, and not the other way around.
Even if you are not pro-life, do you want the government setting up its own advertising mandates for nonprofit organizations and then punishing any who disagree? The First Amendment does not allow the government to force you to speak its message. That’s especially true when you are pursuing a religious mission of simply providing resources and support to women free of charge.
California has the heavy burden of justifying its law under the Constitution or else the law must be struck down to give freedom back to the people. After arguments this morning, I am optimistic the justices will find that the state has not carried this burden and will continue their long tradition of giving speech the highest level of protection it deserves.”
Michael Farris is president, CEO and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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