In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court struck down a town’s sign ordinance as an unconstitutional, content-based regulation of speech. This ruling for free speech means the government can’t pick and choose what speech deserves more protection based on the content of the speech.
Like most other towns in America, Gilbert, Ariz., regulates when, where and how signs may be displayed around town. Temporary non-commercial signs are classified by their content, and each category has its own set of regulations.
Real estate signs, for example, may be up to 80 square feet, and political signs may be up to 32 square feet; political signs may be displayed for four and a half months before an election, including in the public right of way; and homeowners’ association event signs may be displayed for 30 days.
The Good News Community Church, which holds services at different facilities such as local schools because it doesn’t have a permanent church, uses signs to invite people to services. Because the signs include directional information (i.e., an arrow pointing to the location of the service), they may not be bigger than 6 square feet and can go up only 12 hours before their Sunday services start, meaning the signs are posted late on Saturday night when they are hard to see in the dark.
The church challenged the town’s sign code in 2007 as an impermissible content-based restriction on speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district court in Arizona upheld the sign code, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, finding that there was no evidence that the town adopted its sign code for a discriminatory purpose.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Good News Community Church, concluding that these sign restrictions are content-based regulation because they define the categories of temporary, political and ideological signs on the basis of their messages and subject each category to different restrictions. As Justice Clarence Thomas points out,
If a sign informs its reader of the time and place a book club will discuss John Locke’s ‘Two Treatises of Government,’ that sign will be treated differently from a sign expressing the view that one should vote for one of Locke’s followers in an upcoming election, and both signs will be treated differently from a sign expressing an ideological view rooted in Locke’s theory of government.
The court found that these restrictions are subject to, and do not survive, strict scrutiny because the town did not demonstrate that the differentiation furthers a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly drawn. Assuming the town has a compelling interest in preserving its aesthetic appeal and traffic safety, the code’s distinctions are highly underinclusive.
Thus, the town cannot claim that placing strict limits on temporary directional signs is necessary to beautify the town when other types of signs create the same problem, and it did not show that temporary directions signs pose a greater threat to public safety than ideological or political signs.
Here’s the first amendment to the Constitution, which allows freedom of speech and free exercise of religion:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Thank God that I live in a country where those words still have meaning, although you would never know it if you walked onto a university campus. Seems like free speech doesn’t apply there, because people on the secular left are so easily offended by different opinions than their own.
You may recall Brendan Eich. The cofounder and CEO of Mozilla was dismissed from his company in 2014 when it was discovered that, six years earlier, he had donated $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8 campaign. That ballot initiative, limiting marriage to one man and one woman, passed with a larger percentage of the vote in California than Barack Obama received nationally in 2012. No one who knew Eich accused him of treating his gay coworkers badly—by all accounts he was kind and generous to his colleagues. Nonetheless, having provided modest financial support to a lawful ballot initiative that passed with a majority vote was deemed horrible enough to deprive Eich of his livelihood. Which is one thing.
What is quite another is the manner in which Eich has been treated since. A year after Eich’s firing, for instance, Hampton Catlin, a Silicon Valley programmer who was one of the first to demand Eich’s resignation, took to Twitter to bait Eich:
Hampton @hcatlin Apr 2
It had been a couple weeks since I’d gotten some sort of @BrendanEich related hate mail. How things going over there on your side, Brendan?
@hcatlin You demanded I be “completely removed from any day to day activities at Mozilla” & got your wish. I’m still unemployed. How’re you?
Hampton @hcatlin Apr 2
@BrendanEich married and able to live in the USA! . . . and working together on open source stuff! In like, a loving, happy gay married way!
It’s a small thing, to be sure. But telling. Because it shows that the same-sex marriage movement is interested in a great deal more than just the freedom to form marital unions. It is also interested, quite keenly, in punishing dissenters. But the ambitions of the movement go further than that, even. It’s about revisiting legal notions of freedom of speech and association, constitutional protections for religious freedom, and cultural norms concerning the family. And most Americans are only just realizing that these are the societal compacts that have been pried open for negotiation.
He co-founded the company, invented the most widely-used client-side programming language used on the Internet, and he had to step down for making a donation to the cause of male-female marriage. This guy is a hundred times the programmer that I will ever be. And yet he has not found a job since he was thrown out of the company that he co-founded and made successful.
That’s why I have an alias. Because I want to be able express my convictions about issues ranging from abortion to marriage to intelligent design to climate change without losing my job. I need my job to be able to help other Christians, and to have any chance at all of getting married and having children.
The Weekly Standard article traces the progress of the gay agenda, quoting from gay activists in Slate, The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Economist, The New Republic, etc.
Let’s look at one of them: Jonathan Rauch writing in The Daily Beast:
Then Rauch turned to the question of whether or not the creation of same-sex marriage was an obvious extension of liberty—as gay rights advocates have always insisted—or something much bigger:
Virtually all human societies, including our own until practically the day before yesterday, took as a given that combining the two sexes was part of the essence of marriage. Indeed, the very idea of a same-sex marriage seemed to most people a contradiction in terms. . . .
By contrast, marriage has not always been racist. Quite the contrary. People have married across racial (and ethnic, tribal, and religious) lines for eons, often quite deliberately to cement familial or political alliances. Assuredly, racist norms have been imposed upon marriage in many times and places, but as an extraneous limitation. Everyone understood that people of different races could intermarry, in principle. Indeed, that was exactly why racists wanted to stop it, much as they wanted to stop the mixing of races in schools. In both intent and application, the anti-miscegenation laws were about race, not marriage.
Why should this distinction matter today, if both kinds of discrimination are wrong? Because asking people to give up history’s traditional understanding of marriage is a big ask. You don’t expect thousands of years of unquestioned moral and social tradition to be relinquished overnight.
[…]The First Amendment carves out special protections for religious belief and expression. That does not mean, of course, that Christian homophobes can discriminate as much as they want provided they quote the Bible. It does mean, at least for a while, courts and legislatures will strike compromises balancing gay rights and religious liberty, something they did not have to do with black civil rights. This makes gay marriage more complicated—legally, socially, and even ethically—than interracial marriage. And it means gay-marriage supporters will hit a constitutional brick wall if we try to condemn our opponents to immediateand total perdition.
Got that? Gay activists do “expect thousands of years of unquestioned moral and social tradition to be relinquished” – just not overnight. Courts and legislatures can compromise on annihilating freedom of speech and religious liberty – at least for a while. The generous gay rights activists won’t condemn those of us who think that children need a mother and a father to immediate punishment of the sort that Brendan Eich got. Or the punishment that the Oregon bakery got. Or the punishment that the Washington florist got. Or the punishment that the New Mexico photographer got. Only some people will need to be punished – as an example to the others to fall in line.
Are you getting this? This is fascism.
There are three things to do to make it safe for people who believe in natural marriage to speak out without fear. First, never vote for any Democrats ever again, and make sure that the Republicans you vote for are supportive of religious liberty and free speech. Second, we need to get informed in order to be persuasive on the marriage issue. Read a book on pro-marriage apologetics. Read another book on the sociological evidence that shows the importance of mothers and fathers to children. And then read another book on the sociological evidence for the harm caused to children raised by same-sex parents. Then you will know what you have to know to be a change agent for marriage where you are. Finally, it’s never a bad idea to donate to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the team of lawyers who defend Christians in court.
I got an e-mail from a friend in Ireland about the referendum they just had where the pro-marriage side lost by a margin of 62-38.
Hope you don’t mind the link suggestions but I’ve listed some interesting articles from the marriage referendum in Ireland. I’m from the North part of Ireland so I couldn’t vote but some of the vitriol and hatred from the so-called “tolerant” left was absolutely vile. From “all the no voters should be murdered” to “why don’t all you no voters jump into a well”, it was fairly clear to see just what the true colours were.
The slogans all around the country were “marriage equality for all”. By hijacking the term “equality”, this effectively suggested that any naysayers are just vile, intolerant bigots. It wouldn’t be like the secular left to shut down discussion now would it?
[…]What I think you may be interested in is the sheer scale of the bullying that went on here. “Vote No” posters were ripped down, eggs were thrown at no campaigners and a young child was even hurt at a demonstration. Virtually all discussion was closed and no debate was allowed with respect to the politicians. All parties were enforcing the whip and any dissenters would no doubt be expelled from the party. Then you have to throw in the huge corporations that have offices in Ireland like Google, Microsoft and Twitter. They all have policies which promote diversity and inclusion so how would any no-voters who happen to be employees of these companies feel when their employer takes a political stance?
He understands the problem with the redefinition of marriage so that it is based on “love” rather than a lifelong commitment centered around producing and raising children:
What frustrates me about this slogan is that they absolutely were not about “marriage equality for all”. They still place limits on marriage such as close relatives, young children or indeed other topologies of relationship such as polyamory.
It seems to be that marriage in Ireland from this point forward is just some genderless institution for the purposes of validating love. Perhaps the government will introduce some means-testing to ensure that the love of those involved really is valid!
Yes, that’s the problem with love, it comes and goes. And that’s why male-male and female-female relationships are so short lived. If marriage is about feelings of love and self-fulfillment, rather than the needs of the children you make to have a mom and a dad who love them and care about them, then it does not last. Period. (Aside: and that’s why you never marry a woman who rejects responsibilities, expectations, and obligations for fun and thrills!)
I had already read the first two, but not the third. I really recommend reading the first one, so you can reflect on where your money is going when you choose to patronize big corporations, and when you vote for parties on the secular left, as many Christians do.
Just briefly from the first:
The president, Michael D Higgins, and the prime minister, Enda Kenny, back gay marriage. So does virtually every politician. Indeed, the main parties are enforcing the party whip on gay marriage, meaning any Senator or TD who votes against it is likely to be expelled from his or her party. According to the Irish Independent, even politicians who harbour ‘reservations about this major legislative change’ are not speaking out, ‘for fear of disobeying the party whip’.
[…]The public sector also backs gay marriage. It’s apparently being strongarmed to do so. According to one dissenting politician — the only one — ‘agencies who receive state funding are being pressured [by officials] into supporting a Yes vote’.
Silicon Valley is fully behind Yes: Twitter, Google and eBay have all come out for gay marriage. Twitter’s Irish boss says a Yes victory will enhance ‘Ireland’s international reputation’ — another way of saying that if you vote No, you are damaging your own country. Even the police are saying Yes: the Garda Representative Association caused a stir by calling on its members to support gay marriage, leading some to wonder if it’s right for coppers to stick their truncheons into politics.
So, the armed wing, political wing and chattering wing of the Irish elite is behind Yes.
The second article mentions that U.S.-based gay activist groups bankrolled the Yes side effort:
I suppose it is possible that the vote would have been quite as conclusive – roughly 60:40 – if the debate had not been both staggeringly one-sided and the Yes campaign had not been bankrolled so overwhelmingly by US pressure groups. Certainly the youth vote would have gone that way anyway.
[…]But one of its in-house dissidents – the impression of balance is desirable – is Breda O’Brien, a Catholic commentator, who rather put the cat among the pigeons with a piece on 9 May on the funding for the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) and other lobby groups by a US organisation called Atlantic Philanthropies. The striking thing about the donations was not just their size – $4.7 million to Glen in 2005-11, nearly $475,000 to Marriage Equality; some $11.5 million to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, 2001-213 – but that they refer to years before the referendum debate got under way. I can’t wait to see the actual figures for the campaign itself. By comparison the No campaign got by, I gather, on a shoestring budget of about 200,000 euros.
So when friends of mine found that when they entered a shopping centre in Limerick by one entrance on Thursday and left from the other, they were bombarded with leaflets from the Yes campaign, there was a reason for it besides spontaneous enthusiasm. One side could afford a PR campaign; the other couldn’t, though the papers heroically made the most of the tiny-by-comparison sums that US Christians put the way of the No campaign. The motives of Google for entering the fray are probably similar to those that made it take sides on the issue in the US; the referendum was on Friday, and you couldn’t open their bloody homepage without being told it was in favour of marriage equality.
The third article he mentioned talks about how well gay activist organizations were funded. While Christians are giving away billions to feed the hungry and help the poor, our freedom to speak and practice our religion was being removed by groups with very different priorities.
My friend writes, in a second e-mail:
If I was a blogger here I’d be asking three things this morning…
If marriage is now a genderless institution focused only on adult love, is the government going to propose a new institution that is solely focused on children?
If marriage is now purely about a validation of love then wouldn’t it be wise of the government to consider investigating the depth and sincerity of this love before before handing out marriage licences? They surely wouldn’t want to validate a relationship where the two parties weren’t really in love. Some sort of means-test perhaps? /irony
Given the slogans aiming for marriage equality for all, at which point does the government plan to remove the current limits that restrict marriage to two persons?
My question would be this: when will Christians realize that they are under attack and start redirecting funds to pro-marriage groups rather than anti-poverty groups and big government? That money could have been used to fight back in Ireland, but instead Christians just seem to have their heads in the sand on how the world really works.
A majority of Americans (57 percent) continue to say it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry, although that’s down three points from a high reached in February. Most Democrats (66 percent ) and independents (61 percent ) think same-sex marriage should be legal, while most Republicans (61 percent ) do not.
Still, just over half of Americans (51 percent) think small business owners should be allowed to refuse wedding services to same-sex couples if it violates their religious beliefs; 42 percent think those businesses should be required to provide those services. There are sharp partisan differences on this issue.
I found the numbers in this poll troubling – it seems to me that the support for same-sex marriage over religious liberty is worse than I thought.
According to this Washington Examiner article, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz appear to be the toughest defenders of religious liberty, with Walker and Rubio in the second tier.
Evangelical Christian voters are facing an unusual problem: they may have too many choices when it comes to the 2016 presidential election. Several Republican candidates are vying for their support, viewing the voting bloc as a key stepping stone to the nomination.
More than ever before, evangelical sources say, candidates will need to focus on the issue of religious liberty to win this crucial vote, especially in states like Iowa. Many evangelicals felt Indiana Gov. Mike Pence failed to stand up for his state’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which animated conservative Christians across the country.
Steve Deace, a leading talk radio personality in Iowa, believes the impact of Pence’s decision on voters in his state cannot be understated. “There’s a better chance Hillary Clinton will be the [GOP] nominee next year than Mike Pence,” Deace told the Washington Examiner. “Religious freedom is going to be the biggest issue. It has become a transcendent issue. It’s bigger than life, it’s bigger than marriage.”
[…]Bob Vander Plaats, the CEO of the social conservative group the Family Leader, is a kingmaker of sorts in Iowa who has gained influence in the state by leading the effort to remove three Iowa Supreme Court judges from office because of a decision in favor of gay marriage. In 2008, he endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In 2012, he picked former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.
This time, Vander Plaats expects to endorse someone around the Thanksgiving holiday, and said Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are the Republicans that have already impressed him.
[…]Deace said that after the candidate forum he moderated in Des Moines, Iowa, last month, he believes Cruz and Jindal to be the early favorites among evangelical voters. But many evangelical voters, he says, have interest in Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and have not yet made a decision. Unlike recent elections past, Deace says evangelical listeners who are loyal members of his audience want someone who has the organization and financing capable of winning the Republican nomination.
“They’re tired of the false choice of choosing between the guy who believes in something and the guy who raises a bunch of money,” Deace said. “They want the guy who believes in something to raise a bunch of money. … They’re not necessarily looking for the nice guy, or the guy who says ‘Jesus’ the most.”
Evangelicals have several good candidates this time in the primary. I am still favoring Jindal and Walker above all the others, and I’m happy to see that they are seen as solid on religious liberty.
This is by John Zmirak, who is writing at The Stream. You should read the whole thing.
If you aren’t following the arguments over same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court, you should be. Even if you don’t cater weddings or sell pizza in Indiana, your religious freedom is in danger. For detailed accounts of the debate and the questions asked by justices that might be readable tea leaves, see Ryan Anderson’s analysis and the capsule summary provided by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker.
The outcome of this week’s debate will determine whether orthodox American Christians will fall to the status of dhimmis, the third-class Christian citizens of sharia Muslim states. (Dhimmis have bare freedom of worship, but pay special, heavy taxes and are excluded from any positions of influence.) If the court imposes same-sex “marriage,” it will be exposing the churches attended by the majority of Americans to sustained legal attack. Does that sound like crazy alarmism? The Solicitor General of the United States agrees with me. Except that he is in favor of it.
Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether acceptance of same-sex marriage would subject orthodox Christian churches to the treatment once accorded Bob Jones University, which lost its tax-exempt status because its ban on interracial dating contradicted federal policy. Verrilli seemed a little taken aback, then answered yes, “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”
In other words, if the Supreme Court votes against natural marriage, it will free up the feds to target organizations you might have heard of, such as the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. (In theory, the feds might also take aim at every mosque in America, but something tells me that the mosques are likely to get a pass.) Remember that the Obama administration has already tried to force these same churches to provide abortifacients to their employees. Attacking their tax-exempt status over biblical sexual ethics is peanuts next to that.
In case you don’t follow tax policy as a hobby, see Joe Carter’s detailed account of the grave consequences this would have for churches. Put briefly, most would close. Unless, of course, they caved.
Imagine if your house of worship needed to turn a hefty profit, so it could pay the same taxes on its property and income as a casino or a strip joint — unlike Planned Parenthood, since that abortion business is a tax-exempt (and federally funded) “charity.” Imagine if none of the money you gave your church were deductible from your taxes, unlike the money you sent to Greenpeace. Many if not most religious schools and colleges would also shut their doors, unable to pay the same business taxes as for-profit diploma mills.
The First Amendment won’t prevent any of this. When the dictates of a religion conflict with what courts have ruled is a constitutional right, the church’s claims give way every time.
When presidential candidates come to our states to court us during the primaries — the only time faithful Christians exercise any real leverage in this country — the issue of same-sex marriage must now rival abortion in its importance. Any hopeful should be pressed repeatedly to give a straight, unambiguous answer to this question: “Do you support a constitutional amendment restoring natural marriage? If not, then what exactly will you do to protect my religious freedom? If nothing, why should I support you?” We should print that question on cards and distribute it in Iowa and New Hampshire, and candidates should hear nothing else from us till they answer. We need to know whether a year from now we will be living like Americans, or increasingly like Christians in China.
You don’t have to speculate about these things, you just have to look north to Canada, or east to Europe, where the secular leftists are much stronger. Same-sex marriage is a club that the secularist leftists can use to get publicly expressed religious convictions out of the public square, once and for all. All they have to do is leverage sentiments of tolerance that come from religion to pass the gay marriage law, and then use the gay marriage law to get rid of the moral convictions that make it harder for them to do what they want without feeling ashamed. And it’s working, because we have reduced Christianity to emotions, instead of grounding it on reason and evidence. It’s all about feeling good now, and feeling good is more important to most Christians than respecting God’s actual character.