Protecting our first freedoms:
Faith, conscience and speech

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Free speech


SCOTUS to Hear Case of CA Pregnancy Centers Forced to Promote Abortion

November 13, 2017

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a major free speech case Monday that will address a 2015 California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to "disseminate to clients" a message promoting public programs with "free or low-cost access" to abortion and contraceptive services. "It's unthinkable for the government to force anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. This is especially true of pregnancy care centers, which exist to care for women who want to have their babies," commented Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group representing the pregnancy centers. "The state shouldn't have the power to punish anyone for being pro-life," he added. "Instead, it should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech."

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House GOP's Tax Reform Plan a Boost for Families, Free Speech says Family Research Council

Family Research Council news release

November 9, 2017

Family Research Council praised the GOP's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) approved today by the House Ways and Means Committee - a bill that increases the child tax credit, expands education savings accounts to include unborn children, provides for free speech fairness for all nonprofits including churches and faith based groups, removes most marriage penalties and includes an adoption tax credit. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said, "In a victory for free speech, this bill includes Whip Steve Scalise and Rep. Jody Hice's Free Speech Fairness Act which puts an end to the IRS's role of policing the speech of churches, and non-profit organizations. The IRS has no constitutional basis to monitor and then censor speech that doesn't meet with the approval of government bureaucrats."

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Michigan college changes speech policy after being sued by campus conservatives who praised fossil fuels

Washington Post

November 8, 2017

A Michigan college said it would change its speech policy Wednesday after a conservative campus group sued, saying it was silenced after praising fossil fuels. Macomb Community College (MCC) is a school of about 23,000 students in Warren, Mich., about 15 miles north of Detroit. In April, members of a campus chapter of Turning Point USA - a conservative organization whose website says it promotes "the principles of freedom, free markets and limited government" - wanted to tell students about the importance of fossil fuels. Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Caleb Dalton said, "We believe that free speech is for everybody, whether you agree or oppose our beliefs. Free speech on campus is a no-brainer. The only permit you need is the First Amendment."

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Conservative Group Claims YouTube Is Censoring Its Videos

The Daily Signal

November 2, 2017

“We believe everyone should have a voice,” YouTube has said. Everyone, it seems, but conservatives. The internet’s biggest video warehouse isn’t exactly new to the censorship debate. After run-ins with Lila Rose, David Daleiden, and other pro-lifers, people were already suspicious that YouTube was picking sides in the culture debates. Now, after watching YouTube block dozens of its videos, the folks at PragerU are absolutely convinced the company is policing views. Founded by popular radio host Dennis Prager, PragerU has been producing “short, educational videos from a conservative perspective” for six years. Nothing about the footage has been remotely controversial—until now."

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Alliance Defending Freedom CEO and General Counsel Mike Farris on Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd, The Most Important Free Exercise Case In 3 Decades

Hugh Hewitt

October 30, 2017

"HH: I am joined now by Michael Farris. Mike Farris is the CEO and the general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF has been a regular feature on this show for many decades here, a great sponsor of the program. And more importantly, they’re my friends and I trust them, and I’ve been at many, many ADF gatherings over the years. And I don’t know that there’s ever been a more important time in the history of ADF, or a more important case than Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. V. Colorado Human Rights Commission, which ADF is the lead counsel. Mike Farris, welcome to the program, it’s great to have you on.

MF: Hi, Hugh, great to be with you today, thank you. "

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Justice Department supports student's claim that his free-speech rights were violated

The Washington Post

October 25, 2017

"The Justice Department is supporting a student’s claim that his First Amendment rights were violated, filing a statement of interest in a lawsuit against a California community college. It was another sign that the administration was jumping into the fray on free-speech issues, which have been polarizing to the point of violence on some campuses this year. Kevin Shaw, a student studying philosophy and political science at Pierce College in Los Angeles, was stopped by a school official when he was handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus.  He said he was told only allowed to do so in the “free-speech zone” on campus — 616 square feet of the school’s 426 acres — and would need a permit. Shaw, with an attorney for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Los Angeles Community College District, which requires its schools to designate such zones on campus. The Justice Department argued Tuesday that the college’s speech policies created unconstitutional prior restraint that chilled free expression. “University officials and faculty must defend free expression boldly and unequivocally,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a written statement. 'Last month, I promised a recommitment to free speech on campus and to ensuring First Amendment rights. The Justice Department continues to do its part in defending free speech, protecting students’ free expression, and enforcing federal law.' "

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Christian legal group focuses new website on secular campus speech battles

The College Fix

October 19, 2017

"A Christian legal group that has often sued governments on matters of religious freedom is wading more deeply into the secular field of free speech on campus. The Alliance Defending Freedom launched a new website Monday dedicated to legal assistance for students whose speech is chilled or squelched – even when it has nothing to do with faith – by their public universities. The group’s Center for Academic Freedom is not new, but its work is now being promoted apart from the main alliance website, and it bears no indication that the organization is religious. In contrast, an archived page from 2007 shows the center specifically targeting Christian students, back when the alliance was known as the Alliance Defense Fund. The center released a new promotional video in August, a few days after the new website’s domain registration was updated. Casey Mattox, director of the center, and Rebecca Sears, the alliance’s media and marketing strategist, hosted a five-minute Facebook Live event Monday to showcase the features and resources on the new site." 

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Shouldn't pro-life students have the same free speech rights as millionaire athletes?

FOX News commentary by Kristan Hawkins

October 12, 2017

Over the last few weeks, the free speech rights of students on college campuses have been violated as peaceful chalk messages from students have been destroyed, flyers pulled down and permits for new pro-life groups and speakers slow walked through the approval process to prevent voices from being heard. If you haven't heard about the college blockade taking place even this week, perhaps it is because the students whose voices are being forcibly silenced favor life over abortion. And while they may not get the attention that millionaire athletes can garner, their points of view are no less valid.

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Sessions to declare free speech 'under attack' on campus, in broadside at political correctness

Fox News

September 26, 2017

"Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to declare freedom of speech is “under attack” at American colleges and universities, during an address Tuesday taking aim at political correctness run amok on campus. Sessions plans to tackle the hot-button issue of free speech on campus at Georgetown University Law Center, following a series of clashes at Berkeley and beyond over conservative speakers. “Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack,” Sessions plans to say, according to excerpts obtained in advance by Fox News. 'Whereas the American University was once the center of academic freedom – a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas – it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.' "

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Hawaii Pregnancy Centers Go to Court Over Law Requiring They Promote Abortions

The Daily Signal

September 25, 2017

"A conservative legal organization went to court Friday in Hawaii over a law that forces pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for abortion. “They are requiring pregnancy centers [that] just give away diapers and baby clothes to refer women to the state, to a website that connects them with certainly abortion causing drugs, and … abortionists,” Kevin Theriot, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “This is an important case because Hawaii goes even further than California did, and they are clearly singling out pregnancy centers,” Theriot said. The Hawaii law is similar to a law passed in 2015 in California, which required “licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services,” according to Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. "

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Freedom Denied in Minnesota: Court Upholds Law That Forces Filmmakers to Violate Their Faith

Alliance Defending Freedom

September 22, 2017

"Yesterday, a district court in Minnesota ruled against our clients Carl and Angel Larsen, dismissing their lawsuit challenging a state law that would force them to create films that portray a message that contradicts their faith. While this ruling is disappointing, it is not the end. We will appeal. Carl and Angel Larsen own Telescope Media Group, a film production company that seeks to “magnify Christ like a telescope.” While they have done many films for Christian organizations, they are looking to expand the type of work they do. Because Carl and Angel are passionate about marriage, they feel called to film stories that show the beauty and meaning behind marriage as God designed it – a lifelong union between one man and one woman. However, a Minnesota law requires that, if the Larsens film these types of wedding stories, they must also film same-sex weddings." " 'Tolerance is a two-way street. Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn’t be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor,' said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. 'Public officials can’t censor filmmakers or demand that they tell stories in film that violate their deepest convictions.' "

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In Masterpiece Cakeshop Case, Two Sets of First Amendment Precedent Collide

The Federalist commentary by Margot Cleveland

September 20, 2017

"Sunday’s New York Times print edition ran a piece by Adam Liptak, exploring the people and perspectives behind the soon-to-be argued Supreme Court case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The piece is titled, “Cake Is His ‘Art.’ So Can He Deny One to a Gay Couple?” On one side of the dispute stands Jack Phillips—a Christian baker in Colorado who five years ago refused to craft a wedding cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage. “I’m being forced to use my creativity, my talent and my art for an event—a significant religious event—that violates my religious faith,” Mr. Phillips said, according to the Times. To Philips, this is 'more than just a cake.' "

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A chilling study shows how hostile college students are toward free speech

The Washington Post

September 19, 2017

"Here’s the problem with suggesting that upsetting speech warrants “safe spaces,” or otherwise conflating mere words with physical assault: If speech is violence, then violence becomes a justifiable response to speech. Just ask college students. A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.” That’s one finding from a disturbing new survey of students conducted by John Villasenor, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of California at Los Angeles professor."

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Cider and Religious Freedom

National Review commentary by Margot Cleveland

September 19, 2017

"Can a Catholic couple live their faith and still sell apples at a farmer’s market? On Friday, the Tennes family of Charlotte, Mich., and their family-run orchard won a temporary reprieve. The city of East Lansing, Mich., had banned them from the city’s farmer’s market because they refuse to host same-sex marriage ceremonies at their farm. In a decision granting the Tenneses’ motion for a preliminary injunction, federal district-court judge Paul Maloney ordered East Lansing to 'allow the Plaintiffs to participate in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market for the remainder of the 2017 season.' "

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The Art of Tolerance in a Time of Tension and Distrust

The Daily Signal commentary by Sen. Mike Lee

September 14, 2017

"In July 2012, two men entered the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. They asked the owner of the bakery, Jack Phillips, to custom-design a wedding cake for the pair’s same-sex wedding. Phillips offered to sell the couple anything else in his store, even a pre-made cake. But, citing his Christian faith, he declined to design a special cake for the couple’s wedding. The two men filed a complaint with Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found that Phillips had violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. It ordered Phillips to bake the couple a wedding cake."

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Why Did Google Freak Out and Fire an Employee for Spurring 'Honest Discussion'?

The Daily Signal commentary by Genevieve Wood

August 9, 2017

"The tolerance police at Google just struck another blow against increasing diversity in Silicon Valley by firing an employee who wrote a memo critiquing the company’s politically correct culture. Now, let’s be clear: While the Google software engineer who authored the memo had the right to say and write what he did—it’s called free speech—Google is a private company and has every right to fire an employee it deems not in line with its mission or culture. But it’s fair to ask why Google reacted so negatively to an employee who, in a 10-page memo, laid out a case for why Google’s diversity programs weren’t working and how it might rethink its attempt to reduce the gender gap."

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High School: Students May Not Pray or Mention Jesus

Todd Starnes

June 13, 2017

Moriah Bridges wanted to thank God for His immeasurable blessings on Beaver High School's graduating class. But she could not, because she was told it was against the law. "The selected students may still address their class and indicate the things that they wish/hope for their class, but they may not do it in the style of a prayer and most certainly may not recite a prayer that excludes other religions (by ending ‘in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" or "in the matchless name of Jesus,'" principal Steven Wellendorf wrote to Moriah in a letter. "The last lesson this school district taught its students is that they should hide their religious beliefs from public view," First Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys told me. "That fails the test of the First Amendment. School officials - in violation of the First Amendment - forced Moriah to censor her personal remarks during the closing exercise of her commencement ceremony merely because of the religious viewpoint of her remarks," the attorney said.

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GOP religious freedom bill restores free speech, not 'dark money'

The Hill commentary by Mandi Ancalle

May 9, 2017

While Rabbi Saperstein is undoubtedly an expert on international religious freedom, he and many Democrats on the Committee did not appear to be familiar with the legislative initiative to fix the Johnson Amendment, the Free Speech Fairness Act (H.R. 781, S. 264). The idea behind the Free Speech Fairness Act is to restore the First Amendment freedom of speech to pastors and other 501(c)(3) organizations' leaders, while ensuring churches and other non-profits do not become about "dark money" or transition into political action committees. The Free Speech Fairness Act is all about speech. It does not allow 501(c)(3) organizations to begin purchasing political campaign ads, or to otherwise create a cash flow of "dark money" for politicians.

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Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty

The White House

May 4, 2017

Section 1. Policy. It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom. The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government. For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans' first freedom. Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government. The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections.

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White House ceremony - signing of executive order on religious freedom

The White House - video

May 4, 2017

All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech. In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury.

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At Berkely, the mob wins again

National Review commentary by David French

April 26, 2017

Early this afternoon, Ann Coulter canceled her planned Thursday speech at the University of California, Berkeley. There can now be no doubt: A violent Left-wing mob dictates the rules at one of the nation's (and the world's) most prominent academic institutions. Let's be crystal clear about the government's obligation here: It is to protect liberty. That's why government exists in our constitutional republic, to guarantee the exercise of our unalienable rights, especially when it is threatened. Berkeley instead has chosen to systematically strip those rights from its students and hand ultimate power to the mob, justifying its cowardice through a disingenuous appeal to public safety. The deprivation of individual rights is comprehensive, ominous, and intolerable.

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Religious intolerance at USDA latest example of need for religious freedom order

Alliance Defending Freedom news release

February 16, 2017

Under a policy issued by the Obama administration's agriculture secretary, a USDA official threatened to remove all USDA inspectors if West Michigan Beef Company owner Donald Vander Boon didn't permanently refrain from placing in the company's breakroom religious literature supporting marriage between one man and one woman that the department deemed "offensive." After Vander Boon placed a faith-based article concerning marriage on his facility's breakroom table in 2015, Dr. Ryan Lundquist, USDA's public health veterinarian and the inspector in charge on-site at West Michigan Beef, read the article, removed it, and reported it to USDA Frontline Supervisor Robert Becker. They held a meeting with Vander Boon, at which Becker threatened three times to remove USDA inspectors if Vander Boon didn't agree to refrain from placing the article in the breakroom. Becker explained that the ultimatum was based on expanded agency rules against offensive and harassing speech.

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Free Indeed: The Biblical View of Freedom and its Economic, Political and Religious Implications

FRC Mar. 7 presentation by Art Lindsley

February 15, 2017

The Christian ideal state of living includes more than just an experience of inner freedom, it involves an external effort to promote the freedom and flourishing of others. In his talk, theologian and author Dr. Art Lindsley will explain the biblical view of freedom and how it differentiates from other secular views. He will further discuss the societal implications of the biblical view of freedom on the political, economic, and religious spheres. In particular, he will explain how free market principles of private property, limited government, and the freedom to innovate are grounded in biblical freedom. Dr. Lindsley will challenge those who adhere to these biblical values to follow their external implications and work toward a flourishing society. Click here to Register for this event

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Free pastors from the Johnson Amendment

RNS commentary by Tony Perkins

February 9, 2017

In essence, the Johnson Amendment prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)3 organizations from engaging or speaking on matters related to political campaigns. In 1954, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson wanted to weaken organizations politically opposed to him - so he conditioned all such organizations' tax-exempt status on their remaining silent in political matters. Since that time, the amendment has been used to muzzle anything remotely perceived as political speech from tax-exempt organizations, religious and nonreligious, on both sides of the aisle. This overly broad muzzling has included comments of pastors speaking from the pulpit about candidates as well as policy matters. Simply put, the Johnson Amendment has been used to censor speech - something that should never have occurred.

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The War On Wedding Vendors Is Ultimately A War On Free Thought

The Federalist commentary by James Gottry

November 3, 2016

Our First Amendment freedom is functionally meaningless when it is reduced to the "right" to express government-approved views. Throw in a simultaneous prohibition on all expression that hasn't received the government's stamp of approval, and you have the makings of George Orwell's "1984," where even beliefs are controlled. Indeed, to forbid people from articulating beliefs and peacefully acting consistently with those beliefs is, at its core, an attempt to forbid the beliefs themselves. As the Supreme Court has held, "First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought...The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought."

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Therapists Addressing Same-Sex Attractions are Joining the SAFE-T Patrol

FRC blog by Peter Sprigg

November 1, 2016

If you follow news about the LGBT movement, you may have heard that there are major efforts underway to ban "conversion therapy." There are a number of serious problems with this effort-one of which is that no one who engages in the process of helping people overcome unwanted same-sex attractions refers to it as "conversion therapy." The new term is Sexual Attraction Fluidity Exploration in Therapy-or "SAFE-T" for short. By stressing therapeutic exploration, the new term accurately conveys that the therapist is not being coercive but merely assisting individuals in a client-centered examination of their sexual attractions. Scientifically, the fluidity of sexual orientation (and, for our purposes, especially same-sex attractions) for many men and women is now beyond question. The language of SAFE-T highlights this reality and points to human experience that cannot be denied.

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Catholic health workers face crisis of conscience

Catholic Register

October 22, 2016

(Canada) Given the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario policy that forces doctors to provide an "effective referral" for any recognized, legal medical procedure or treatment, even in those cases where the doctor objects on moral or religious grounds, there is great fear among members of the Doctors' Guild they will be forced to refer for assisted suicide. The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience is taking the College of Physicians' and Surgeons of Ontario (CSPO) to court over its "Professional obligations and human rights" policy. The policy states, "Where physicians are unwilling to provide certain elements of care for reasons of conscience or religion, an effective referral to another health-care provider must be provided to the patient. An effective referral means a referral made in good faith, to a non-objecting, available, and accessible physician." This would apply to requests for medically assisted suicide. The demand isn’t often prompted by untreatable, crippling pain, said Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director and international chair Alex Schadenberg. “Some people are asking for voluntary euthanasia and it has nothing to do with palliative care. It has to do with their attitudes towards autonomy or radical control and their fear of suffering,” he said.

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Federal Court: Christian Pregnancy Centers Must Tell Patients Where They Can Get Abortions

The Federalist

October 14, 2016

A federal court just ruled that pregnancy centers have to tell their patients where they can get publicly-funded contraception and an abortion-even if it violates their religious beliefs. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that California law AB 775, which compels Christian, pro-life pregnancy centers to advocate for abortion, doesn't impede their First Amendment right to exercise their religious beliefs. “Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms,” said Matt Bowman of Alliance for Defending Freedom, which was representing the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, a faith-based pro-life group with 111 clinics in California.

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We Need to Amend the Johnson Amendment So the IRS Will Allow Free Speech

Daily Signal 9/29 commentary by Tony Perkins

October 1, 2016

For decades a provision of the tax code referred to as the Johnson Amendment has prevented these organizations from providing such information. Under current IRS guidance, the Johnson Amendment prevents a whole host of nonprofit organizations, religious and otherwise, from informing their followers in ways relevant to their own duty to vote. This ban is at odds with our own history.

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We Need to Amend the Johnson Amendment So the IRS Will Allow Free Speech

Daily Signal commentary by Tony Perkins pub. 9/29

October 1, 2016

The amendment was introduced in 1954 by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, D-Texas, as a way to stop his political opponents. The future president never intended to bar advocacy organizations from mentioning elected officials, or pastors and churches from commenting on candidates. Unfortunately, the Johnson Amendment certainly has been used in this way. Indeed, under current IRS guidance, it prevents a whole host of nonprofit organizations, religious and otherwise, from informing their followers in ways relevant to their own duty to vote. This ban is at odds with our own history. Since the birth of our nation, pastors and churches have been at the forefront of shaping public debate and our choice of public servants.

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Illinois crisis pregnancy centers sue over requirement to give abortion information

Chicago Tribune - pub. 9/30

October 1, 2016

Crisis pregnancy centers in northern Illinois have filed a federal lawsuit alleging their employees' freedom of speech and religious rights will be violated if the state forces them to give patients information about abortion services. "The government shouldn't be putting messages in people's mouths," said Noel Sterett, an attorney for the centers. The centers hope to have the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act amendment, which goes into effect Jan. 1, abolished as unconstitutional. The suit also seeks to have the state permanently barred from enforcing the amendment and from penalizing those who don't comply.

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Critics on Civil Rights Report: It's 'Dangerous' -- Important to 'Push Back Against This Nonsense'

CNS News

September 16, 2016

Faith leaders and religious liberty advocates are weighing in on the recently released U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report that concluded terms such as "religious liberty" and "religious freedom" were code words for discrimination and even "Christian supremacy." "The phrases ‘religious liberty' and ‘religious freedom' will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance," Martin Castro, chairman of the commission, said in a statement included in the 296-page report. "Perhaps most troubling is the attempt to discredit sincere religious believers as being motivated by hate instead of faith and the implied recommendation that religious groups should change their beliefs on sexual morality to conform with liberal norms for the good of the country," said Roger Severino, , director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation who also worked with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

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Is Distributing Pornography Illegal? Obscenity Law Explained

NCOSE video by Dani Pinter

August 20, 2016

Dani Pinter from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation's Law Center explains obscenity law and it's implications for Internet pornography today. All speech is presumptively protected under the First Amendment. However, "obscene pornography" is not. There are large categories of speech that are unprotected, for example child pornography, blackmail, or defamation. Obscenity falls into this category of criminal speech. That is why federal law is acting within the bounds of the First Amendment in its law that prohibits the distribution of obscene adult pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops, through the mail, and by common carrier.

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Air Force rules officer can keep Bible on desk

Washington Times

August 18, 2016

The Air Force has ruled an officer broke no rules by keeping his Bible on his desk after receiving a complaint last week about the presence of the holy book. The Scriptures had been removed from the workstation of Maj. Steve Lewis of the 310th Space Wing, following a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), alleging the presence of the book violated the First Amendment's establishment clause. But an investigation into the incident found "no abuse of liberties has occurred," said Lt. Col. David Fruck, chief of public affairs at the 310th Space Wing. Mr. Fruck said keeping a Bible on one's desk is "well within the provisions" of Air Force regulations regarding religious expression.

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A speech code for lawyers bans viewpoints that express 'bias'

Washington Post commentary by By Eugene Volokh

August 10, 2016

So say that some lawyers put on a Continuing Legal Education event that included a debate on same-sex marriage, or on whether there should be limits on immigration from Muslim countries, or on whether people should be allowed to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity rather than their biological sex. In the process, unsurprisingly, the debater on one side said something that was critical of gays, Muslims or transgender people. If the rule is adopted, the debater could well be disciplined by the state bar: 1. He has engaged in "verbal . . . conduct" that "manifests bias or prejudice" toward gays, Muslims or transgender people. 2. Some people view such statements as "harmful"; those people may well include bar authorities. 3. This was done in an activity "in connection with the practice of law" - Continuing Legal Education events are certainly connected with the practice of law.

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Religious liberty trouble in California: Interview with Biola University president

ERLC interview by Laura Gurskey with Barey H. Corey

July 22, 2016

Q: How does SB 1146 threaten the future of Biola University and other religious institutions of higher education? A: SB 1146 represents an unprecedented narrowing of religious freedom in America. By removing protections for religious colleges that allow for free exercise of faith (per the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution), SB 1146, in effect, communicates that the government, not individual religious communities, determines which beliefs are acceptable and how faith can and cannot be lived out. For example, if passed, SB 1146 would likely mean that schools like Biola would no longer be able to maintain certain conduct, housing, admissions, employment and other policies according to their Christian convictions about sexuality and gender. What's at stake for religious institutions of higher education is nothing short of their ability to exist as alternative communities; communities whose alternative ways of thinking and living allow for distinct educational practice and meaningful missional impact.

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The dark pessimism of American Christians

The Week commentary by Michael Brendan Dougherty

June 28, 2016

In her new book, It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its EnemiesMary Eberstadt finds a dark pessimism settling over many American Christians when they contemplate the future. They perceive a foreboding shift in public attitude. Once there seemed to be a broad and liberal respect for the free exercise of religion, even in public life. But now, the very cultural forces promoting tolerance and diversity treat Christians and their institutions with broad suspicion, and demand absolute conformity with an egalitarian ethos that has only recently even announced its own existence. But what if the zeal that Eberstadt uncovers in her book is motivated by something deeper? 

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Mass media distorts coverage on religious issues, Christian author says

Washington Times

June 1, 2016

In a talk at the Family Research Council on Tuesday, Michael Cromartie pinned substandard religion coverage on the environment in which media members are educated. He said the majority of journalists attend elite progressive institutions where they scarcely come in to contact with those who hold religious beliefs, leading to a conspicuous blind spot when it comes to writing on related matters. "We're like an anthropological project for them: ‘We'll go study these people, because I've never met one'," he said.

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Washington Supreme Court will hear case over floral artist's freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

March 3, 2016

A lower court ruled that Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, must pay penalties and attorneys' fees for declining to use her artistic abilities to design custom floral arrangements for a long-time customer's same-sex ceremony. Rather than participate in the ceremony, Stutzman referred Rob Ingersoll, whom she considers a friend and had served for nearly 10 years, to several other florists in the area who would provide high-quality arrangements and wedding support. "Barronelle and many others like her around the country have been willing to serve any and all customers, but they are understandably not willing to promote any and all messages," said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner.

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Pregnancy Clinics Fight for "Right to Deny Abortion Information"

New York Times

February 10, 2016

On Jan. 28, in the third such effort in a federal court, a lawyer from Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that is representing the El Cajon clinic and others, argued in San Diego for a preliminary injunction. In the 90-minute hearing, Matt Bowman, a lawyer for the conservative group, argued that the law imposed an onerous and unconstitutional burden. "You've got to give women information about abortion even though the reason you exist is to give them alternatives to abortion," he said, arguing against the mandate.

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'The Protest Season' is Becoming an Assault on Religious Freedom on Campus

The Stream commentary by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 12, 2015

Committed religious faith that animated the founding of many of the institutions that now reject it should be welcome, not shunned. And degree-granting schools should be places where respectful and principled disagreement is part of the very purpose of their institutional existence. Fascism should be dead everywhere, but especially on America's campuses. Why isn't it?

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State of Maine Sues to Muzzle Pro-Life Preacher

PJ Media

November 17, 2015

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has decided that the women waiting inside a Portland clinic to lose their babies to an abortionist have heard more than enough from Brian Ingalls. So, Mills has filed a lawsuit to shut him up for good - or at least move him far enough away from the Planned Parenthood clinic that his warnings about a dismal afterlife for those who take the life of an unborn child can't be heard. But attorneys for the Thomas More Law Center argue that is a violation of the man's constitutional rights and they are committed to standing alongside Ingalls in court. Richard Thompson, the Thomas More Law Center's president and chief counsel and a former prosecuting attorney, said Mills' lawsuit is nothing but "a blatant abuse of her powers to aid the pro-abortion political establishment dominating the city of Portland."

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Coaches like Joe Kennedy are why I made it in the NFL

Seatlle Times commentary by Steve Largent

November 4, 2015

He is the kind of man who not only cares about his players because that's what coaches are supposed to do, but because he has seen tough times as a teenager in Bremerton himself. He celebrates and loves his players the way we would hope all coaches do, but far exceeds that standard. That is why I am troubled that Kennedy is banned from working with those young men because he is exactly the kind of coach I once so desperately needed and these young men need today. Going further, I am troubled that Kennedy is suspended from duty because he made the decision to pray.

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State university faculty bans "racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language"

Freedom2Care commentary by Jonathan Imbody

September 4, 2015

A reasonable response would be for parents and students to boycott rather than subsidize such universities, and for Congress to cut off all federal aid to public institutions like the University of Washington that violate the Constitution. Then the faculty and administrators can parade around in robes and soft hats in their multi-million-dollar auditoriums and prattle on about transphobia, species-ism, GOP-ism, and whatever else they can't tolerate, all day long--until they have to get to the unemployment offices before closing time.

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Terms Banned on Campus: Illegal Immigrant, Male, Female

Townhall commentary by Katie Pavlich

September 2, 2015

Want a good grade in certain classes at Washington State University? Then you better avoid using the terms "illegal immigrant," "male" and "female" as part of your descriptive vocabulary. Universities around the country have recently release lists of banned words and phrases that professors consider "microagressions." Terms on those lists include "American," questions like, "where are you from" and the concept that hard work is how individuals get ahead in life.

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Goodlatte Urges Public Colleges and Universities to Update Free Speech Codes

House Judiciary Committee

August 14, 2015

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today sent a letter to 161 public colleges and universities urging the institutions to update their free speech codes in order to foster freedoms under the First Amendment. The letter comes after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released a report detailing a list of public colleges and universities that received a “red light” rating--“one that has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” Recently, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing examining First Amendment protections for students on public college and university campuses.

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The trouble with the 'dignity' of same-sex marriage

Washington Post commentary by Jonathan Turley

July 2, 2015

[Justice Kennedy found] the right of everyone to the “dignity” of marriage. The uncertain implications of that right should be a concern not just for conservatives but also for civil libertarians. [T]he use of a dignity right as a vehicle presents a new, unexpected element, since it may exist in tension with the right to free speech or free exercise of religion. Obergefell would be a tragic irony if it succeeded in finally closing the door on morality and speech codes only to introduce an equally ill-defined dignity code. Both involve majoritarian values, enforced by the government, regarding what is acceptable and protectable. Substituting compulsory morality with compulsory liberalism simply shifts the burden of coercive state power from one group to another.

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Dissenting Obergefell Justices Sound Alarm On Religious Freedom

The Federalist commentary by Mollie Hemingway

June 30, 2015

[The First Amendment] actually guarantees freedom of religious expression, of which teaching the faith is but one small part. Or as the First Amendment puts it, Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. To pat the religious on the head and say, “you can kind of still teach, for now” while discovering a new constitutional right in deep conflict with those teachings is disconcerting, to put it mildly. Kennedy's muddled opinion included a total of one paragraph on the most contentious religious freedom issue of our time. Even that paragraph showed, as Thomas put it, a mistaken understanding of the First Amendment.

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Justices rule against sign code

Washington Times

June 23, 2015

In separate free-speech rulings Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled against an Arizona town's sign code, which was used to punish a small, local church. In the eight-year-long Arizona church sign case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Justice Clarence Thomas concluded that the town's signage code was "content based," which meant the code had to meet the highest constitutional test. Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel David Cortman, who represented Pastor Clyde Reed and Good News Community Church, said the unanimous ruling was a "victory for everyone's freedom of speech."

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The Silencing--How the Left is killing free speech

Daily Beast

May 11, 2015

On today's campuses, left-leaning administrators, professors, and students are working overtime in their campaign of silencing dissent, and their unofficial tactics of ostracizing, smearing, and humiliation are highly effective. But what is even more chilling-and more far reaching-is the official power they abuse to ensure the silencing of views they don't like. They've invented a labyrinth of anti-free speech tools that include "speech codes," "free speech zones," censorship, investigations by campus "diversity and tolerance offices," and denial of due process. They craft "anti-harassment policies" and "anti-violence policies" that are speech codes in disguise. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's (FIRE) 2014 report on campus free speech, "Spotlight on Speech Codes," close to 60 percent of the four hundred-plus colleges they surveyed "seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of students."

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Jindal: Hillary thinks religious liberty only applies in a church


May 9, 2015

This is about the power of the state to to close or fine Christian business owners, this is about the left trying to silence us and telling us we don't have a right to live our lives according to our sincerely held beliefs. When Secretary Clinton, when President Obama say, ‘you've got the freedom of religious expression,' to them, that just means you get to go to church and say what you want inside church. That's not religious liberty. Religious liberty is the ability to live our lives according to our faith 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

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Court ponders sign law's effect on church

Baptist Press

January 13, 2015

David Cortman, who represented Reed before the justices, warned afterward, "No one's speech is safe if the government is allowed to pick free-speech winners and losers based on the types of speech government officials prefer." In addition to the ERLC, among others signing onto the CLS brief were the Anglican Church in North America, Association of Christian Schools International, Christian Medical Association, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

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A Line Has Been Crossed; It's Time to Sound the Alarm on Religious Liberty

Breakpoint Commentary

October 21, 2014

Last week I told you that Houston’s Mayor, Annise Parker, demanded to see the sermons of a group of five pastors and threatened them with a subpoena. Why? Because the pastors had objected to a new so-called “equal rights” ordinance that would allow self-identified “transgendered” men to use women’s restrooms. That’s an issue all its own. But as bad as that is, the Houston mayor’s shocking and outrageous trampling on the religious liberty of these pastors is far, far more disturbing.  In fact, for someone in government to demand that pastors turn over their sermons is almost beyond belief. I confess I almost thought I was reading something out of my own book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, where I describe how the Gestapo tried to harass and intimidate Martin Niemoller and other German pastors speaking the truth from their pulpits.

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Why not just hand the sermons over?

Moore to the Point

October 16, 2014

In our system of government, the ultimate "king" is the people. As citizens, we bear responsibility for electing officials, for speaking to laws that are made in our name, and for setting precedents by our actions. Shrugging this off is not the equivalent of Jesus standing silently before Pilate. It's the equivalent of Pilate washing his hands, so as not to bear accountability for our own decisions and precedents set. When the government acts, legal precedents are set. By complying with this unjust decree, Christians would be binding future people and institutions, including those who are the most powerless to stand against such things. If the government can scrutinize the preaching of Christian churches on sexual matters in Houston, the same government could do the reverse in, say, Amarillo.

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Pulpit Freedom participation exceeds 1,800 pastors, continues through Election Day

Alliance Defending Freedom

October 15, 2014

More than 1,800 pastors in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico have participated so far in the Alliance Defending Freedom seventh annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday event, which began this year on Oct. 5. Of those participating, 1,517 preached sermons presenting biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates and signed a statement agreeing that the IRS should not control the content of a pastor’s sermon. “The tax-collecting IRS shouldn’t be playing speech cop and threatening a church’s tax-exempt status simply because its pastor exercises his constitutionally protected freedom of speech,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley, who heads the Pulpit Freedom Sunday event.

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Hats Off To The University Of Tennessee For Standing Up For Public Prayer

Daily Caller commentary by Sen. Marco Rubio

October 2, 2014

Earlier this season, the university rejected the demands of anti-religion interest groups to stop Tennessee's tradition of observing a moment of non-denominational prayer praying before kickoff. Earlier this year, an anti-religion group went after Clemson University and its football coach Dabo Swinney. Another instance was a case involving prayer in legislative bodies, which ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court. I filed a friend-of-the-court brief defending this practice, which dates back to the Founding Fathers of our nation, because it has been an enduring, living symbol of the religious freedom America stands for.

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College and death of religious freedom

The News Star commentary by Charles C. Haynes

September 25, 2014

In 2010, a deeply divided Court held in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez that so-called "all comers" policies are constitutional. As a result, public colleges and universities are now free to require all student clubs to allow any student to be eligible for leadership of the group. Since that ruling, InterVarsity and other conservative Christian organizations have been "derecognized" at a growing number of public universities. And some private universities have invoked the reasoning behind the High Court's decision to defend their exclusion of some religious groups from recognition.

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Appeals Court Bans Orientation-Change Therapy for Minors

Citizen Link

September 15, 2014

A New Jersey law passed in 2013 that bans therapy for minors struggling with same-sex attractions was upheld today in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Liberty Counsel represented two licensed mental health professionals who provide counseling to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions. "The laws banning counseling in this area are simply unconstitutional violations of free speech," said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.

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Clashing visions threaten the mission of U.S. religious liberty panel

Deseret News

August 15, 2014

Thomas F. Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, blasted the Durbin bill as one that "betrays an unfortunate ignorance of U.S. policy. The commission, even at its most effective, is not the central institution mandated to 'promote international religious freedom.' That is the State Department's job. And the senior official responsible for leading that policy does not (yet) exist, a sign of the remarkable indifference of this administration to the issue of religious persecution and its antidote, religious freedom."

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Massachusetts lawmakers OK new abortion clinic buffer law

Washington Times

July 31, 2014

"The new law is unconstitutional not only because it is vague and overbroad, but also because it purports to grant law enforcement the power to issue a temporary restraining order - a power that may only be exercised by courts," attorney Michael DePrimo said, according to a report by Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online. Mr. DePrimo helped represent Supreme Court petitioner Eleanor McCullen, 77, who argued that Massachusetts' old buffer zone law was so extensive that it violated her rights to freedom of speech.

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No, Wheaton College's Accreditation Should Not Be Revoked

National Review Online commentary by David Coleman

July 30, 2014

For those who insist that only secular institutions can fully cultivate students' minds, I would offer a wager: Let's compare the academic growth of similar students who attend a religious school such as Wheaton with students who go to secular colleges. We could compare the growth in student performance during college in areas such as literacy, math, science, even critical analysis. Let's grade their papers blindly; I think we would be surprised by what we found. There are policies at Wheaton with which I disagree, but disagreement must not tempt us to banish difference but instead should spur us to look harder.

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What the Hobby Lobby ruling means to people of faith

Los Angeles Times commentary by Jonathan Imbody

July 4, 2014

Blind to the irony of its own assertion, The Times opines that the court "absurdly" held that "Hobby Lobby and the other companies qualified as 'persons,'" thus protected by 1st Amendment religious exercise rights. If the 1st Amendment did not apply to companies, The Times would have no right to free speech.

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Christian Student's Lawsuit Causes School System to Reverse Speech Policy

Citizen Link

June 6, 2014

Christian Parks, a student at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, was preaching in the campus courtyard last year. A school police officer told him to stop because his words "might offend someone." Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed suit this March. "We commend the Virginia Community College System for revising its speech policy to align with what a marketplace of ideas should be," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Travis Barham.

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The Supreme Court on Prayer

Public Discourse commentary by Gerard Bradley

May 29, 2014

The surprise-and it is a big one-is that Justice Kennedy's majority opinion did not stick to the reasoning of the more limited 1983 case. He did not equivocate or dither. Instead, Kennedy authored a bold and almost uniformly lucid opinion that secured a wide constitutional berth for robustly "sectarian" prayers. Kennedy's opinion is the Court's best piece of Establishment Clause work in decades-and a happy omen for religious liberty in our country.

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Neo-Jim Crow in the Middle East

Washington Times commentary by Gary Bauer

May 29, 2014

Sadly, a version of Jim Crow has been resurrected - but this time, his targets are the ancient Christian populations of the Middle East. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently issued its 15th annual report on the World's Worst Religious Freedom Abusers. The report highlights the worst violators of religious freedom and recommends steps the U.S. government can take to encourage countries to reform. This year's report details how Christians in many Middle Eastern countries have become second-class citizens.

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Heritage Scholar a Threat to Safety on Stanford Campus?

Heritage Foundry blog by Andrew Kloster

March 20, 2014

Ryan T. Anderson talks a lot about marriage. Heritage's William E. Simon fellow has even been on CNN talking about marriage. But apparently safe enough for a CNN studio and dozens of other college campuses isn't safe enough for Stanford University, because the Stanford University Graduate Student Council (GSC) has denied funding for the Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) to have Anderson and other advocates for traditional marriage come speak at Stanford, and is attempting to charge the SAS $5000 in unnecessary security costs.

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The bipartisan side of the March for Life

Washington Times

January 19, 2014

Lawmakers are not ignoring the March for Life, scheduled at high noon Wednesday on the National Mall, and currently the largest pro-life demonstration on the planet, according to organizers. "In a rare feat for the nation's capital, representatives from both sides of the aisle will come together," the organizers say, pointing out that keynote speakers include House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Rep. Dan Lipinski, Illinois Democrat and Republican Rep. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey. "Support for life pervades American society, regardless of party affiliation. These representatives have all courageously defended life during their time in office, and we could not be more thankful for that," says Jeanne Monahan, president of March for Life, established four decades ago by the late Nellie Gray following the Roe Vs. Wade decision.

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Where Free Speech Collides With Abortion Rights

New York Times

January 12, 2014

That last exemption, for clinic employees, tilts the scales in favor of their point of view, said Mark L. Rienzi, a lawyer for Ms. McCullen and other protesters. "The government does not have the ability to decide," he said, "that its public sidewalks are open for speakers on one side but not speakers on the other side."

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Free speech, abortion rights to clash at Supreme Court this week

Washington Times

January 12, 2014

Claims to free speech will clash with abortion rights Wednesday when the Supreme Court takes up a closely watched case on the constitutionality of "buffer zones" around abortion clinics. At issue: whether state laws forcing abortion protesters to stay at least 35 feet away from the doors of clinics are prudent safety measures given the passions surrounding the issue or whether they constitute an illegal infringement on the free speech rights of protesters.

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