What is Freedom of Speech?
Why Should You Care About Freedom of Speech?
Threats to Freedom of Speech
Chike Uzuegbunam, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College, was stopped not once, but twice, from sharing his Christian faith with fellow students in a public area on campus. First, officials said to continue speaking, he had to use one of two tiny speech zones on campus and get advance permission to use them.
Chike did what they asked. He reserved a time and went to the speech zone to speak about his faith. But this time, two campus police officers approached Chike, demanded his ID card, and told him they had received a complaint about his speech. The officers then ordered him to stop and threatened him with discipline if he continued to speak about his faith, blatantly ignoring his right to freedom of speech. When Chike filed suit, college officials first argued that the First Amendment did not protect his freedom to present the Gospel on campus, an argument they later retracted.
A Pittsburgh City ordinance attempted to ban sidewalk counselors, like Nikki Bruni, from counseling or praying with women on a public sidewalk near the entrance of an abortion clinic.
The ordinance allowed others to speak to women about the weather or sports as they approached the clinic’s door but prevented counselors from entering a zone – that extended 15 feet in every direction from the entrance – to provide literature, pray, or speak with a pregnant woman about matters of faith, nonprofit services, and life and death.
The City Council Chair, who sponsored the law, admitted that it was intended to prevent women from hearing pro-life speech.
Shawnee State University officials punished philosophy professor Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, who had served at the university for over 20 years with an unblemished record, because he declined a male student’s demand to be referred to as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns. Dr. Meriwether believes that God has created human beings as either male or female, and that a person’s sex cannot change. To call a man a woman or vice versa endorses an ideology that conflicts with his beliefs. So, Dr. Meriwether offered a compromise: He would refer to this student by a first or last name only.
But the university ultimately rejected this compromise, choosing instead to force the professor to speak and act contrary to his own Christian convictions and philosophical beliefs.
ADF sued on behalf of Dr. Meriwether and eventually won at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that he shouldn’t be forced to speak a message that violates his beliefs.
The University of Louisville hired Dr. Allan Josephson in 2003 to serve as the Division Chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology. During his tenure, he made significant improvements to the program, elevating it to a position of national reputation.
In 2017, Dr. Josephson participated in a panel discussion where he expressed his professional views on the treatment of youth experiencing gender dysphoria. Several university faculty and staff members objected to his views, and as a result, the university demoted him from his long-held position. In the spring of 2019, the university then informed Dr. Josephson it was not renewing his contract for the upcoming academic year, thus terminating him.
Public colleges have no business punishing people simply because they hold different views than their colleagues or the administration.
Jack Phillips, a cake artist in Colorado, gladly serves everyone, but as is customary practice for many artists, he declines to use his creative expression to celebrate events and messages that conflict with his deeply held beliefs. In 2012, two men asked Jack to design a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony, but Phillips declined because this would not only violate his conscience but also demean his integrity as an artist. Jack soon faced a legal complaint and after six years of litigation, his case made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled in Jack’s favor in that case. But Jack’s legal journey didn’t end there. Activists and hostile Colorado officials have continued attempting to destroy Jack’s livelihood and his rights. He’s now in the middle of his third lawsuit, where an activist sued Jack after he declined to create a custom cake celebrating a “gender transition.” Jack has lost a big part of his business, more than half his employees, and endured hate mail and even death threats throughout his battles in court, but he’s not backing down in his pursuit to protect his fundamental freedoms.
Unfortunately, Jack isn’t alone. Government officials across the country have also tried to dictate what other creative professionals—like filmmakers, photographers, floral artists, and graphic designers—can express through their work.
Heidi Matzke runs Alternatives Pregnancy Center in Sacramento, California. Like many other pro-life pregnancy centers, it exists to minister to women and help them discover alternatives to abortion.
California officials tried to force Heidi’s center and other pro-life pregnancy centers to go against their mission and violate their convictions when the state enacted AB 775, a law that effectively required pregnancy centers to promote abortion.
This law required licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post signs or distribute a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception. The mandated speech was also required to include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics. If they did not comply, they faced fines up to $1,000 per violation.
Upholding Freedom of Speech Matters
Understanding Your Rights