Two developments at the U.S. Supreme Court this week have favored – or at least given hope for – greater freedom of speech for religious citizens, according to Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters.
In cases in which pro-life pregnancy care centers challenged a California law requiring them to promote abortion and a florist in Washington appealed a ruling requiring her to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex ceremony, the Court ruled in favor of greater free speech.
Taken together with the high court’s June 4 ruling siding with a Colorado cakemaker, “there is reason to be hopeful that freedoms of religion and speech are regaining their proper place in American jurisprudence,” Johnson said.
NRB member Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented all three clients in the cases.
In the California case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, the court ruled that it was wrong to require pro-life pregnancy care centers to post notices that the state provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services.
“The U.S. Supreme Court is right to reject this insidious state mandate,” Johnson said. “California tried to coerce pro-life pregnancy clinics into giving free advertising to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry. The government has no right to compel American citizens to violate their beliefs by actively promoting the state’s preferred moral position, especially on such an issue of literal life and death.”
Johnson added, “I hope leaders in Sacramento will take heed and end the apparent race to appease the radical Left with more and more intolerance.”
Noting that the case was won by a 5-4 ruling, Johnson added, “I again am so thankful to God for Justice Neil Gorsuch being on the court, and I am grateful to President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell for ensuring his confirmation last year. This case is a reminder that we must be vigilant to ensure we are led by Constitution-honoring officials in all branches of federal, state, and local government.”
In the Washington state case, the high court ordered the state Supreme Court to reconsider the case of floral artist Barronelle Stutzman in light of its ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop.
“The justices were right to vacate Washington State’s Supreme Court ruling sanctioning discrimination against people of faith,” Johnson said.
Last year, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers. She had come under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington Attorney General for politely declining to use her artistic skills for a same-sex ceremony. The state’s highest court upheld a decision that Stutzman must pay severe penalties even though she referred her longtime customer, a friend, to other florists who would not have a conflict of conscience.
“This is not the end of this battle, but it is a positive step,” said Johnson. “The lower courts must now grapple with the Masterpiece Cakeshop mandate that the state expunge from its actions any bias against religious beliefs its officials may personally wish to crush. Just like Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman is an upstanding citizen whose beliefs deserve respect.”
In 2016, Stutzman appeared on a panel with her ADF attorney, Kristen Waggoner, at Proclaim 16, NRB’s International Christian Media Convention, to discuss her case along with several other important cases in which religious liberty is being threatened. Stutzman explained that because of her actions in this matter, she was sued personally.
She told those in attendance to stand up for their faith. “It’s me today,” she said, “but it’ll be you tomorrow.”
Johnson urged NRB members and others to “pray for a religious liberty-affirming outcome” when the Washington high court reconsiders Stutzman’s case.
Highlighting the critical role played by Alliance Defending Freedom in all three cases, Johnson commended ADF’s victories and underscored the unfair labeling of ADF as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“It’s worth noting that ADF’s excellence before the Supreme Court again completely discredits the decision of Amazon and other tech titans to accept the inflammatory decrees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which defames ADF as a ‘hate’ group,” he said.
Photo Above: Barronelle Stuztman speaking during the “Losing the Freedom to Believe” session at Proclaim 16, Feb. 26, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee.
By NRB Staff
Published: June 27, 2018