BLOGThe First Amendment and the Next President of the United States

By Marissa Mayer Posted on: | November 07, 2016

It’s hard not to think about who will be the next President of the United States of America. We’ve seen the headlines, the debates, and the media interviews. We’ve witnessed endless rounds of he said/she said. We’ve seen friendships strained and families bent out of shape in what has clearly been the most tumultuous presidential election in recent memory.

But come November 8, if all goes normally (which is hardly a given in this election), we will know who the next President of the United States of America will be. That person will take on one of the toughest jobs in the world and hold great responsibility. A big part of that responsibility is evident in the oath that the President takes on Inauguration Day (January 20) before entering office: 

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Every American should want a president who will do his or her duty in protecting the Constitution. Especially now.

We are living in a time where complete disregard for the Constitution—especially the First Amendment protections of free speech and religious liberty—seems commonplace.  Just look at the stories coming out of our nation’s college campuses where religious bigotry, viewpoint discrimination, and a general silencing of speech have cast a cloud over these supposed institutions of higher learning.

Two recent cases that ADF is involved in highlight this point.

In February, California State University-Los Angeles (CSULA) tried to shut down a free speech event on its campus featuring conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. School officials first charged outrageous security fees because they said Shapiro was “controversial” and then tried to cancel the event outright saying it had to feature additional speakers to make it a “more inclusive event.”

After those attempts failed, student and faculty protesters resorted to blocking access to the speech so only about half of those trying to attend made it inside.

A more recent case comes from Iowa State University, where a student, Robert Dunn, was told that his ability to graduate depended upon his compliance in signing away his freedom of speech. The case centers around the university’s mandatory training on the school’s “non-discrimination policies and procedures.” The policies allow punishment of “First Amendment protected speech activities … depending on the circumstances.” And student speech could be deemed “discriminatory harassment” if other students think it is not a “legitimate topic” or “not necessary” or lacks a “constructive purpose.” 

When Robert asked the school’s Office of Equal Opportunity what the consequence would be if he or any other student did not sign a document certifying compliance with the policy, he was told that it would result in a hold on his graduation and subsequent review by the dean of students.

And this is just the start. Over and over, we’ve seen students expelled over their beliefs, students publicly ridiculed and academically punished by faculty members who disagree with their faith, and discrimination against students for their pro-life and conservative ideas.

There’s also the troubling trend of silencing views that run against the grain of what popular society and the government values, which poses a great harm to religious freedom and the rights of conscience.

In a recent article for The Federalist, ADF’s own James Gottry detailed how the First Amendment “becomes meaningless when it is reduced to the ‘right’ to express government-approved views”—such as we are seeing in the wedding industry around the idea of same-sex marriage.

Gottry uses the case of hand-lettering and calligraphy artists Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski as an example. These women use their amazing talents to create custom wedding invitations and announcements, among other things.

“As Christians, Joanna and Breanna seek to create art that is consistent with their beliefs, which includes the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman…” notes Gottry. But “[A Phoenix] law not only seeks to compel Joanna and Breanna’s expression, by forcing them to create art celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies, it also forbids them from expressing their own beliefs.”

Violations of free speech, religious expression, and rights of conscience like these are shocking and have no place in a society that truly values freedom and the Constitution.

Clearly, no matter what happens in the election, a strong defense for the First Amendment is sorely needed right now. Christians across the country are experiencing firsthand what it’s like to have their foundational freedoms taken away. We have to stand up for them. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because any attack on their religious freedom is an attack on the First Amendment and the Constitution as a whole.

If you join with us today, any gift you give—large or small—will be doubled so that we can provide the absolute best defense for freedom during this important time in American history. Thank you for giving generously.


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Marissa Mayer

Senior Web Writer

Marissa Mayer is an Arizona native who fell in love with the written word at a young age.

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