In another free-speech case related to the left’s efforts to silence Christians, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed the right of crisis pregnancy centers not to promote abortion, as California has demanded.
A California bill would bar counselors from helping patients who want help overcoming same-sex attractions.
Several similar cases are developing in other states.
In California, lawmakers are poised to adopt a law that effectively could make it illegal to sell a Bible, because it would ban the sale of publications that condemn homosexual behavior.
The court Tuesday rejected California’s attempt to demand that pro-life crisis pregnancy centers promote abortion. The opinion said, “Content-based laws ‘target speech based on its communicative content’ and ‘are presumptively unconstitutional and may be justified only if the government proves that they are narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.’
“The licensed notice is a content-based regulation. By compelling petitions to speak a particular message, it ‘alters the content of [their] speech.'”
Liberty Counsel is one of the organizations fighting the speech restrictions.
“Today we celebrate that the Supreme Court overturned this forced speech law,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel. “California can no longer force crisis pregnancy centers to speak a message that goes directly against their religious beliefs and mission to save lives. The First Amendment protects the right to speak and the right not to speak. To be forced to post state-prescribed notices in large font undermining the mission of the pregnancy centers is a shocking violation of the First Amendment.”
Liberty Counsel also explained the likely impact of the ruling on the speech of the counselors.
“The opinion explicitly adopts the arguments Liberty Counsel has made all along in [counseling] cases, which is that ‘professional speech’ cannot be exempted as some ‘new category of speech,'” the statement said.
The opinion states: “The dangers associated with content-based regulations of speech are also present in the context of professional speech. As with other kinds of speech, regulating the content of professionals’ speech pose[s] the inherent risk that the government seeks not to advance a legitimate regulatory goal, but to suppress unpopular ideas or information… Take medicine, for example. ‘Doctors help patients make deeply personal decisions, and their candor is crucial.’ Throughout history, governments have ‘manipulat[ed] the content of doctor-patient discourse’ to increase state power and suppress minorities.”
Liberty Counsel said: “When the government polices the content of professional speech, it can fail to ‘preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail.’ Professionals might have a host of good-faith disagreements, both with each other and with the government, on many topics in their respective fields. Doctors and nurses might disagree about the ethics of assisted suicide or the benefits of medical marijuana; lawyers and marriage counselors might disagree about the prudence of prenuptial agreements or the wisdom of divorce; bankers and accountants might disagree about the amount of money that should be devoted to savings or the benefits of tax reform. ‘[T]he best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,’ and the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.”
California’s speech limits for counselors reached new heights in the current legislative session, Lawmakers are considering radical language that would call counseling to reject same-sex lifestyles a “consumer fraud” crime.
The bill also would ban printed materials that advocate ways to become free of unwanted same-sex attractions. And several experts contend the broadly written proposal could ban sale of the Bible.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said it would prohibit churches “from holding any ticketed events addressing topics of sexuality.”
“But it’s far more reaching than that. This means the sale of any book that states the practice of homosexuality or transgender identification as immoral actions would be illegal in California. … This could include the Bible!”
Two sponsors of the bill have been caught on video explaining their motives.
State Assembly member Al Muratsuchi admitting he wants to target people of faith.
The lawmaker argued the First Amendment “does not prohibit banning fraudulent conduct.”
“The faith community, like anyone else, needs to evolve with the times,” he charged.
And in a speech at Google headquarters, LGBT activist Samuel Brinton promised to “figure out” how to stop “pastors” and churches from offering such counseling.
“I may not be able to find every little camp … every pastor, but I can make it something that is culturally unacceptable,” he said. “Yes, it’s directly affecting mental health professionals, but by proxy, it’s affecting everyone else.”
Regarding the demands on crisis pregnancy centers, the American Center for Law and Justices’ Jay Sekulow said: “This is a significant victory for pro-life pregnancy centers and the decision represents a tremendous victory for the First Amendment. This decision brings an end to the troubling abortion distortion factor. The court clearly understood that First Amendment free speech rights cannot be applied differently – one set of rules for those protecting the right-to-life, and another for those promoting abortion.”
Michael Farris, president of the Alliance Defending Freedom, said: “No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion. In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs.”
Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, said: “The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that both sides of a debate matter, and the government cannot silence one side’s speech just because it may be unpopular. Crisis pregnancy centers like NIFLA serve women and children according to their religious mission, and California should respect that. This ruling proves that when it comes to important issues, the government doesn’t get to tell people what to believe, and it also doesn’t get to tell people what to say about it.”
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said: “The First Amendment is clear in its wording and guarantees all Americans are legally protected from compelled speech by their government. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the state of California was clearly in the wrong in this case and all Americans, whether pro-life or not, should be relieved with the Supreme Court’s decision.
“What if the government made a vegan grocer to post ads for the local butcher shop? Everyone would agree that that’s not fair. This case is no different and thankfully, the court recognized that fact.”
Perkins continued: “California lawmakers, through this law that has now been struck down, attempted to override the First Amendment, forcing private entities to speak messages against their beliefs, and punishing them if don’t comply. That this could happen in America, should be of grave concern to all Americans, regardless of their views on abortion.
“Pro-life pregnancy centers provide, at no charge, the practical resources, information and emotional help women need to choose life for their baby, and to care for their child long after their born. Pregnancy resource centers should not be compelled to speak a message that goes against the very nature of their existence. We are thankful they can continue their good work without fear of punishment,” Perkins said.
“If the government has the right to compel speech from these centers, what will stop the government from forcing your church or non-profit to promote a message that runs counter to your mission? Americans can now breathe a sigh of relief that this question will not have to be answered in practice.”
Chuck Donovan of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute said, “The court sent a clear message today that California’s cruel mandate unacceptably infringes on pregnancy centers’ First Amendment liberties – a ruling that will reverberate across the country wherever these remarkable nonprofits have been subjected to state bullying as they strive to carry out their mission of love.
“Pregnancy centers exist to serve and support mothers in the courageous decision to give their children life, even under difficult circumstances. Approximately 2,750 centers around the country provide a multitude of free services for millions of women, as well as tens of thousands of men, at nearly $161 million in annual cost savings to their communities. The biggest winners in today’s decision are women, children, and families,” he said.
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, said: “Today’s decision from the Supreme Court is a resounding reaffirmation of free speech principles and a sharp rebuke to the California Legislature. The so-called Reproductive FACT Act was never about objectivity or information—it was a blatant attempt to coerce pro-life advocates into promoting the very thing they abhor. We are gratified that the Supreme Court rewarded our efforts over the last several years to defeat this insidious legislation.”
In the pregnancy center ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas explained in the 5-4 majority that the state targeted “pro-life (largely Christian belief-based) organizations that offer a limited range of free pregnancy options, counseling, and other services.”
“Here … licensed clinics must provide a government-drafted script about the availability of state-sponsored services, as well as contact information for how to obtain them. One of those services is abortion – the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing,” he wrote.
“By requiring petitioners to inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized abortions – at the same time petitioners try to dissuade women from choosing that option – the licensed notice plainly ‘alters the content’ of petitioners’ speech.”
“Tellingly, many facilities that provide the exact same services as covered facilities – such as general practice clinics. … Are not required to provide the licensed notice,” the majority said. So, “the licensed notice regulates speech as speech.”