BLOGThe Weekly Digest: 1-11-17

By James Arnold Posted on: | January 11, 2017
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On to the news.


Conscience Rights for The Rockettes


We've been talking about conscience rights for quite awhile. Finally, the cultural left is beginning to apply those arguments (if only they could see how they apply universally).

That is the topic of ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence's piece at The Federalist.

From the piece:

"Opponents of President-elect Trump are saying they can’t in good conscience do business that helps Trump and his supporters, because it would violate their deeply-held beliefs to do so. That’s how we’ve advocated for Elane PhotographyArlene’s FlowersHands On OriginalsBrush and Nib Studio, and other cases, including the latest case for Telescope Media Group in Minnesota.

Trump’s upcoming inauguration has brought forth freedom-of-conscience objections that add to other ones from the past year. Phoebe Pearl, a dancer with The Rockettes, and Jan Chamberlain, a singer with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, have refused to perform in the Inauguration Ceremony because of their opposition to the president-elect and his policies. CNN reports that Chamberlain wrote she could “never sing for [Trump],” because that would be like 'endorsing tyranny and fascism” and “throwing roses to Hitler.'"

Lorence walks through numerous other examples (including AirBnB hosts who do not wish to rent to Trump supporters, the French designer who did not want to create dresses for Melania Trump, and BuzzFeed opting not to run any ads for Trump during the campaign). Lorence's main point is summed up here:

"So, Trump opponents, now might be a good time to re-examine your dismissive opposition to ADF cases protecting business owners’ right to operate according to their conscience. Here is the brutal reality that the framers of the Constitution understood: Government operates by coercion. Many times, we want the government to use its coercive power because it promotes ordered liberty for everyone. So when the police arrest drunk drivers, thieves, and other criminals, we all benefit.

"But government can misuse its coercive power. That is why the framers of the Constitution gave us a Bill of Rights that includes a First Amendment to protect us from the government’s coercion when it involves our beliefs and expression. It is a laudable goal to eliminate discrimination, but that goal does not override or nullify the Constitution’s protection of a person’s right to speak or not to speak."

Here's the conclusion: We must defend the right of everyone to express their ideas without fear of governmental punishment. Yes, this includes those with whom we disagree, because if the government could punish them, it could punish us.

One more recent example (which occurred after Lorence's article was posted, so we'll give him a pass for not including it): TV host Ellen DeGeneres chose to disinvite Kim Burrell from performing on her show after Burrell made reference to "the perverted homosexual spirit" during a sermon in a church.

And here's the deal: It doesn't much matter if you think Burrell was right or wrong in her statement at the church. Ellen DeGeneres has the right to follow her conscience, even if we disagree with her. Because if we demanded the government force DeGeneres to invite Burrell to perform on her show, then we would grant the government the power to coerce those we do agree with. That's bad news for everybody.

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James Arnold

News and Research Manager

James Arnold manages and edits the Alliance Alert, a daily repository of news in all forms—written, spoken, or in video format.

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