Newspaper column: Free speech issues ‘on the ballot’ in Nevada

The right to free speech includes the right to not be compelled to speak.

That includes not being required to pay dues to a union whose political views might be different from yours, not being required to advertise abortion availability at your faith-based pregnancy counseling service, not being required to use your cake baking talent to create a special cake or your flower arranging expertise for a gay wedding.

All of these have come down from a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court in the closing days of this year’s court calendar.

This past week, the court ruled that public employees could not to be forced to pay dues to unions with which they might not agree.

“The First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, forbids abridgment of the freedom of speech,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the 5-4 opinion. “We have held time and again that freedom of speech ‘includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.’”

Public employee unions that advocate higher wages that require higher taxes are intrinsically political.

Just the day before the court ruled, again 5-4, that a California law that required pro-life, religious-oriented unlicensed pregnancy centers to place extensive disclaimers in their ads and on billboards telling people about abortion services was an unconstitutional impingement on free speech.

“Here, for example, licensed clinics must provide a government-drafted script about the availability of state-sponsored services, as well as contact information for how to obtain them” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority opinion. “One of those services is abortion — the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing. By requiring petitioners to inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized abortions — at the same time petitioners try to dissuade women from choosing that option — the licensed notice plainly ‘alters the content’ of petitioners’ speech.”

A little more than a week earlier in a 7-2 ruling the court held Colorado could not force cake shop owner to make a special cake for a gay wedding.

Shortly thereafter. the court remanded a Washington case involving a florist who declined to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, citing the Colorado ruling.

The state of Nevada, under the direction of Attorney General Adam Laxalt, had joined in both the public employee union case and the California abortion law case on the winning side.

Laxalt’s office put out a press release about the California law ruling stating: “The ruling, which rests exclusively on free speech grounds, does not affect abortion providers; it neither requires them to change their practices nor infringes on their ability to provide abortions. The Supreme Court correctly held that compelling private organizations to promote the government’s preferred message under those circumstances is inconsistent with the First Amendment. This is an important holding ensuring that the government cannot simply force private speakers with whom it disagrees to also promote the government’s preferred message, especially when there are other ways for the government to promote its own message without interfering with private speech.”

Republican Laxalt’s Democratic opponent for governor in November, Steve Sisolak, put out a statement reported by The Nevada Independent saying, “I believe that women deserve access to all of their options when it comes to their reproductive health care. I still have concerns over the lack of information given by these crisis pregnancy centers and the harm it can cause.”

Sisolak continued, “As governor, I will fight to protect a woman’s constitutional reproductive rights and her consistent access to comprehensive care. Adam Laxalt has shown repeatedly that he will pursue an anti-choice agenda that will roll back the clock on women’s rights and bring Nevada down a dangerous path.”

This has nothing to do with abortion rights and only to do with speech rights.

This point was lost on Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen who is running for Republican Dean Heller’s Senate seat. She sent out an email saying, “Deceiving women about their health care options is an attack on women’s fundamental reproductive freedom, and I will continue to stand against this Administration’s attacks on women’s rights and access to health care. Nevadans support a woman’s right to make these personal decisions.”

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Supreme Court hears free speech case

14 comments on “Newspaper column: Free speech issues ‘on the ballot’ in Nevada

  1. Rincon says:

    It seems that your statement about “…a California law that required pro-life, religious-oriented unlicensed pregnancy centers to place extensive disclaimers in their ads and on billboards telling people about abortion services…” may be incorrect. I would be grateful if someone here can point me to a reputable source making the billboard claim. It’s possible that my reading is incomplete, but I don’t think so.

    Reading an article from the Washington Post, it says nowhere that the abortion statement is required on any advertising. It does say, “A clinic that does not offer medical services is required to post a sign and include in advertisements that it is “not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.” Why? Read on…

    “The California legislature said it was moved to act because some centers trick women into thinking they provide contraceptive services, including abortion, and sometimes delay a woman until it is too late to schedule an abortion.” Pretty disgusting stuff, but apparently, it’s completely legal for a pregnancy center to misrepresent themselves in order to trick a woman to carry an embryo or fetus to term, forcing her to deliver an unwanted baby. Free speech obviously includes the right to misrepresent oneself to the detriment of another. In Europe, they might call that fraud, but in the U.S., it’s, “let the buyer beware”, or perhaps more appropriately, “never give a sucker an even break”. What a country!

    “The California law at issue requires centers offering some medical services, such as ultrasound exams, to meet specific requirements and be licensed. They also must display or relay to a woman the state’s message:

    “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office.” Presumably, this means to a client, not in advertising and so, cannot be construed as a requirement to place the message on billboards.

  2. Rincon says:

    The Supreme Court ironically decided that it is illegal for a union to negotiate an agreement with a business requiring it to hire only dues paying union members, but it is perfectly legal for that same business to negotiate a similar agreement with job applicants to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement as a requirement to obtain a job, thereby forcing them to waive their right to justice through the courts if they want to be employed. Nonactivist judges you say? Horsefeathers.

  3. Rincon says:

    BTW, I can’t understand why a 4th recent Supreme Court decision wasn’t included in this article: The Court, in it’s usual 5-4 manner, placed its solid stamp of approval on gerrymandering. Aren’t you proud of that one as well?

  4. That has nothing to do with the topic.

  5. If all else fails read the link to the ruling.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thomas is there a difference between what California was doing here and what the Federal Government does by requiring warning labels on products?

    If there isn’t one (and I can’t think of one) does your position mean you think the government has no authority to require a warning label on a product?

  7. Sounds like forced speech, especially if it is wrong, like coffee causes cancer.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Well I suppose it is forced speech, like the warning labels on medications, or cigarettes.

    But the question remains; may be federal government require these warning labels pursuant to the Commerce Clause?

  9. Anonymous says:

    As a follow up, may the government force someone to recite an oath? To the Constitution before taking office? Or to “tell the truth” before testifying? Or for any other reason for that matter?

    Is there any “forced speech” at all, that the government may permissibly require from anyone?

    And any explanation you have, as to why or why not would be appreciated.

  10. No one is forced to take an oath.

  11. Deleted says:

    No one is forced to open a medical clinic, or sell cigarettes, or anything else.


  12. Rincon says:

    The topic appeared to be Supreme Court rulings regarding free speech, but then the case of the baker was introduced. Refusing to bake a cake is a form of speech? Since the answer appeared to me to be no, then I assumed the subject was recent Supreme Court decisions, so naturally, I wondered why the Court’s support of gerrymandering was neglected.

    The ruling I accessed by the link is 50 pages long. ‘fraid I’m too busy – or lazy – to wade through them all.

  13. That’s what keyword searches are for.

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