Recent Decision Proves SCOTUS Understands 1st Amendment But California Doesn't


From a national security standpoint, the Supreme Court decision upholding President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban is arguably the most important of this young century. From the standpoint of the cultural and social health of our nation, the other Supreme Court decision announced June 26 was its most crucial since 1973.

This one told California in no uncertain terms that it could not compel Crisis Pregnancy Centers to advertise abortion services. The state is forbidden to compel speech, just as it is theoretically and constitutionally forbidden to prohibit speech. (California currently does prohibit speech that declares healing available for people experiencing unwanted same sex attractions; that issue is still being litigated.)

The implications for religious liberty are even more far reaching.

The whole story is yet untold. The court did not strike down the California requirement that unlicensed care centers must advertise their lack of a license. (Only centers offering medical care are required to license, but to post signage that a center is not licensed is to imply incompetence; centers already declare whether or not they offer medical care.) The court did order this one back to lower courts with the declaration it expected the centers to prevail in this case as well; that means California can be forbidden to enforce the law even before a decision is reached.

There is and will be plenty of nitpicking.

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Liberal justices led by Stephen Breyer dissented that the Court has upheld other state laws requiring doctors to inform patients considering abortion of available adoptive services. The majority gets it that their argument compares apples to oranges.

For one thing, all doctors are required to give full disclosure of options; California made no such requirement of abortion providers.

For another, doctors are universally expected to offer neutrality on controversial medical issues; both abortion advocates and pro-life ministries are open about their advocacy. Doctors are practicing medicine, not faith — even when they are persons of faith — and they are not shy about saying so.

Activists on both sides of the life question are equally clear that they are practicing faith.

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The largest nit to be picked is the unspoken assertion that some speech must be regulated because it is “wrong” according to those who “know” what is right and must be sure only these right things are spoken.

True believers in abortion-on-demand fall into this category; they know abortion is a good thing and want everyone to speak what they know whether or not it is agreed.

But this is precisely why the First Amendment protects expressions of both speech and faith. The Founders knew all too well the dangers of permitting elites to tell us what to say or how to express our faith.

This writer — along with a clear majority of Americans — believes with all his heart that the right to life is the first and most sacred right of created human beings. But what matters in the Constitution is the right to debate — whether from a majority standpoint or as a minority of one — that truth might become known and freedom reign to discover it.

When the day comes — and it is coming — that abolishes legalized abortion for reasons other than to save life, we pro-lifers had best remember that the right to abolish a ghoulish practice does not eliminate the right to debate and advocate for it.

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There is that old “sauce for the goose” principle that underlies our whole constitutional system of laws not men.

The principles at stake are the same as those upheld in the recent SCOTUS decision regarding forced support for same-sex marriage by compelling craftsmen to create art that defies their consciences. The whole idea of freedom of speech and faith expression is to protect unpopular speech and even weird faith. The underlying axiom is that when one person is muzzled, all are at risk for the same treatment.

In any culture that restricts free debate or free exercise the opportunity to discover and apply authentic truth is likewise compromised. Thirty years ago most Americans saw themselves as pro-abortion; today a clear majority has reversed to a pro-life stance as a result of the very freedom California would limit.

The Court has stated clearly that the better idea needs to win, not the one carrying the most clout.

God has something to say about it as well.  He says it throughout the prophets of the Old Testament, but Dr. Martin Luther King appreciated it best as Amos put it: He cited God’s passion to let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

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