Will the Supreme Court ruling on free speech be a crack in the dam of compelled speech?

Julie Reeder
Julie Reeder

In a narrow ruling last Friday, June 30, the Supreme Court majority ruled to protect artists and content creators’ free speech. Will compelled speech be challenged next?

While free speech advocates hailed the decision, LGBTQ advocates are afraid it is part of a larger agenda.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg claimed Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”that the Supreme Court had an “agenda” other than keeping to the Constitution after it ruled in favor of a Christian web designer.

Lorie Smith, of 303 Creative, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), was arguing that a Colorado law would force her to create messages that violate and ignore her deeply held religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. This was despite a state law that forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The law would have forced her to create a website for a same-sex couple’s wedding, which she claimed violated her own free speech.

The Supreme Court majority ruled that it did, indeed, violate her right to free speech.

The justices all agreed during the arguments that products off the shelf, even ones with messages, must be sold to everyone. Software that merely provides a template, Ms. Waggoner said, does not express the designer’s views about same-sex marriage.

“If it’s a plug-and-play website where the couple, for example, is putting in their names and using their website, then you don’t have compelled speech because you don’t have a speech creator,” she said.

While this decision seems to be narrow in scope and applies to artists and content creators, one has to wonder if this is also a crack in the dam of “compelled speech” laws in California?

Compelled speech laws may make it against the law to not call someone their preferred pronoun if you are a healthcare worker, or if you are a counselor, you may have to provide “affirmative care,” agreeing with a minor child’s diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or if you are a doctor, maybe you have to prescribe to your patient according to the guidelines that the state or CDC, or WHO dictates, rather than your own diagnosis from the history of your patient.

As to the Supreme Court ruling, Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion stated that if the court had ruled the opposite way, the government would have the power to force individuals to violate their religious beliefs.

During an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Buttigieg said Gorsuch’s decision had no merit and that it’s part of a conspiracy on the part of courts and Republican state legislatures, who are “chipping away” at the rights of LGBT Americans, but the justices saw that it was a bigger issue.

But what if it was an opposite situation?

While the Civil Rights laws protect you from discrimination, what if you are a devoted Muslim or a Jewish person and someone wants you to do a Christian baptism cake, or a Christian church website that claims “Jesus is the only way” or similar messaging, that they believe is false and dangerous? Shouldn’t they have the right to refuse the business and keep a clear conscience?

There are thousands of cake bakers and website designers who would appreciate the business.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented, with Sotomayor writing Smith’s view is “profoundly wrong.”

Time will tell if this is a crack in the dam of “Compelled Speech.” Canadian and U.S. governments (state and federal) have started to legislate speech, forcing people to say things they don’t really believe, which is the first time in history that western common law governments have legislated compelled speech, forcing people to “say” things, whether they believe them or not, or whether it is against their religion or “deeply held beliefs.”

Where you do see compelled speech is in China, North Korea, and authoritarian countries that don’t value individual rights and free speech. Something can be factually false as it relates to history, science or politics, but you are forced to say what you know to be untrue to please the “supreme leader” or the government.

This compelled speech is, in my mind, also a violation of free speech.

And, free speech is just a beginning. Next you could be forced to wear something, like a uniform. Is that constitutional? I don’t believe it is.

Julie Reeder
Julie Reeder