Friday, Jul 20, 2018
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The Supreme Court upholds the right of conscience


The U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings last week that reaffirmed U.S. citizens’ protection from compelled speech.


Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two important and stinging rebukes to a concept that has resulted in some of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment: compelled speech.

Both Janus vs. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates vs. Becerra focused on this governmental affront to the right of conscience.

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In both cases, the aggrieved parties argued that they were being compelled to lend their voice, in one form or another, to a cause with which they did not agree.

In the case of Janus, Mark Janus, an employee at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Human Services, was forced to pay union dues to a public-sector union to which he did not belong. He argued that his money was being used to fund political causes he did not agree with.

In Becerra, California-based Christian-run crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which often advise women against getting an abortion, were required by state law to post information in their clinics about the option of abortion.

In the span of two days, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of both Mr. Janus and the California CPCs, issuing rulings that thoroughly and persuasively explain why the First Amendment does not permit compelled speech.

Justice Samuel Alito penned the majority opinion in the Janus case, writing that forcing non-union members to contribute union dues “violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

In the majority opinion for Becerra, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the California law was unconstitutional as “it could be seen as compelled speech for those in the CPCs that disagreed with the state’s stance on abortion.”

When issues of the First Amendment arise, they usually concern being able to speak freely and express one’s own opinion, regardless of content. But to those who cherish free speech, compelled speech should be of equal concern.

The idea that someone could be compelled by the government to utter, or tacitly support, ideas they oppose is not only unconscionable, but it is unconstitutional.

Those who are angered by these decisions should imagine a situation in which the government forced them to agree with state-sanctioned opinions.

Compelled speech is an affront to liberty.

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