As radical gender ideology continues to spread throughout health care in the U.S., the left is taking aim at practices that stand in its way while disregarding First Amendment freedoms and the needs of people.
Currently, 20 states have banned the intentionally misnamed “conversion therapy,” which is actually just the practice of providing counseling to help individuals with same-sex attraction or gender confusion reorient in synch with their God-given sexuality. However, the name “conversion therapy” – a misnomer much like “reproductive health care” in relation to abortion – is intentionally used by the left to conjure up images of patients being effectively tortured, badgered, or bullied into renouncing homosexual interests or abandoning transgenderism.
Banning counseling efforts to guide a patient through struggles with their sexual orientation is a direct violation of free speech, freedom of religion, and patients’ freedom to seek the treatment they want. It also threatens parents’ rights to direct the mental health care and education of their children.
Some on the left are even attempting to expand the definition of “conversion therapy” to include any form of opposition to homosexuality and transgenderism. Doing so could criminalize even private conversations in which individuals advocate for abstinence from homosexuality or Biblical sermons on God’s design for human sexuality.
Those struggling with any mental health problem need guidance rooted in Truth and reality, not in lies rooted in the baseless religion of progressivism.
Despite the lack of data regarding the psychological ramifications of the “gender-affirming” approach, and the growing body of evidence that this method doesn’t remedy mental health problems, the left wants “affirmation” to be the only therapy available to struggling minors.
Thankfully, a U.S. district court has ordered the city of Boca Raton, Florida, to pay a combined $75,000 in damages to two therapists, while also ordering Palm Beach County to pay a fine of $100,000 for passing so-called “conversion therapy” bans for minors seeking help with unwanted homosexual attraction.
Boca Raton and Palm Beach County passed laws prohibiting conversion therapy for minors in 2017. The two plaintiffs, marriage and family therapists Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, filed lawsuits arguing that their therapy was voluntary and focused on reducing unwanted homosexual attraction rather than changing the client.
Liberty Counsel, which represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the judge’s order sets a “precedent that minors who are struggling with gender confusion can get the help they need from counselors who are free from political censorship” and it should “be a warning to any government that has not repealed similar counseling bans.”
Several municipalities in Wisconsin have audaciously enacted these bans that blatantly violate counselors’ First Amendment freedoms and rob confused minors of the real help and hope they need. Hopefully, these local governments in our state pay attention to this case and reverse course.
As Christians, obeying God and loving our neighbor require us to call out sin and point one another to God’s Word. The left has no right to stand in the way of our allegiance to God with laws enforcing anti-Christian beliefs about gender and sexuality. Please pray that this case is the first of many victories when it comes to restoring religious liberty and free speech in mental health care and the Wisconsin communities where these bans have been enacted will indeed do the right thing and revoke such policies.
Colorado is trying to force a Christian business owner to create (and thereby, endorse) a message that she disagrees with, but Lorie Smith is fighting back. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Smith’s case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, on Monday, December 5, and we are hopeful the high court will uphold her free speech and religious liberty rights.
Smith designs websites for weddings as long as they align with her belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. However, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act wrongfully forces her to create websites for same-sex marriages. Smith is willing to serve customers regardless of their sexual orientation; she simply refuses to celebrate an unbiblical view of marriage, as is her right.
The hearing lasted for over two hours, and the court debated several questions regarding line-drawing. For example, was Smith’s refusal to create websites for same-sex marriages based on the message of the website or the sexual orientation of the couple? Was her refusal an expression of speech, and therefore protected by the First Amendment, or of conduct?
The left-leaning justices led the questioning of Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kristen Waggoner, who is representing Smith. The justices clearly believed Smith was denying the couple her services based on status.
Justice Elena Kagan asked Brian Fletcher, an attorney representing the state of Colorado, what could happen if the court rules in Smith’s favor. Fletcher argued that the court could allow racial discrimination if it upholds Smith’s right to free speech. He pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision in Runyon v. McCrary, a case in which a private school’s admission policy discriminated against black children. However, this comparison is irrelevant. The court’s decision in Runyon v. McCrary did not involve freedom of speech, and the skin color of a teacher’s students wouldn’t change his pro-segregation message.
Thankfully, the conservative justices seemed to lean in the opposite direction. In a debate with Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson, Justice Neil Gorsuch referenced Colorado’s treatment of Jack Phillips, who was the subject of a very similar case, as forcing him into a “re-education program.”
Waggoner argued that Smith isn’t just selling a service and engaging in conduct, but is conveying a message with her website designs. She highlighted the fact that the Supreme Court has refused to force someone to convey a message that violates his or her beliefs time and time again in the past.
She asserted that Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston should govern Smith’s case. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that Massachusetts could not require the St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers to allow an LGBTQ group to participate in the march. Similarly, the government cannot force Smith to celebrate an LGBTQ relationship.
Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson retorted by pointing to Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), in which the Supreme Court ruled that a law withholding federal funding from colleges that restricted military recruiters’ access to students did not violate the First Amendment. He argued that the FAIR ruling “regulates conduct, not speech” because it set guidelines for what the schools could do rather than what they could say.
Chief Justice John Roberts pushed back on Fletcher’s reliance on FAIR, rightfully stating that the case involved a completely different type of compulsion than the forced speech in Smith’s case.
Then Justice Amy Barrett presented several hypotheticals about other types of marriages or situations that might violate Smith’s beliefs, such as heterosexual marriages that began as adulterous relationships. Waggoner said that Smith would not create websites for those couples either, proving that her refusal is based on the message the website sends, not the status or sexual orientation of the couple.
Justice Barrett noted that Smith says on her website that she fully customizes “the look, feel, theme, message, color palettes, et cetera” of each website she designs.
Gorsuch then voiced the critical distinction of this case, saying, “So, the question isn’t who, it’s what?” Waggoner agreed. This is the question that this case hinges on, and our conservative justices seem to be on the right track.
WFA joined with other pro-religious freedom organizations to file a friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Lorie Smith. We are hopeful the conservative justices (which comprise a majority) on the court vote in favor of free speech and religious liberty, as they seem poised to.
If the government can compel Lorie to create a message she disagrees with, it can do the same to any of us. Please pray the high court upholds our First Amendment rights.
Worldwide religious persecution is escalating. According to Open Doors, one in seven Christians worldwide suffer high or extreme levels of persecution.
While significant religious persecution is happening in nearly 80 countries, Sub-Saharan Africa, where extremist Islam is rampant, is experiencing the most violence against Christians. Last year, nearly 6,000 were killed for faith-related reasons.
Religious persecution can come from the government, radical religious groups, or the culture; and they all manifest in different ways. According to this year’s Persecutor of the Year Awards Report, persecution of Christians is more prevalent and widespread today than it ever has been before.
These realities should make American Christians more faithful in praying for the persecuted church and more zealous in protecting our religious freedom. While religious liberty is certainly under attack in our country, we still enjoy more religious liberty than most of the world, and we shouldn’t take that for granted.
Religious freedom was the impetus for the founding of our country. In 1620, the Pilgrims came to the New World for the right to live according to the dictates of their faith. Succeeding generations have fought to protect this First Freedom.
Two hundred years after the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, President Abraham Lincoln declared that the fourth Thursday of every November would be an official holiday called Thanksgiving – an opportunity to thank God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. At the time of Lincoln’s declaration, the nation was deeply divided, much like it is today. The country was nearing the end of a Civil War and disagreement had turned to violence. Because of these similarities, Lincoln’s words still speak to us today.
“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity…peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed…and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Lincoln was absolutely right. Despite the turmoil surrounding us, we have so much to be grateful for. Over the last year, we have seen several monumental wins for religious liberty, including Supreme Court cases Carson v. Makin, Kennedy v. Bremerton, and other local cases. While there is still more work to be done to safeguard our religious liberty, we should celebrate the fact that by law, we can still freely express our faith in the public sphere.
Always, our religious freedom should be high on the list of things we are thankful for.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court earlier this week affirmed Coach Kennedy’s right to silently pray in public after high school football games in Kennedy v. Bremerton School Board.
For years, Kennedy would pray very briefly by himself following football games. At one point, students became curious about what he was doing. When asked if they could join, he told them it was a free country, and they could do what they wanted. As time went on, more and more students and even coaches from other teams joined in.
After nearly half the team began to participate in these short prayers, the school told him he could no longer pray publicly. Kennedy initially obeyed the order, but later believed it violated his freedoms of speech and religion. He felt responsible to thank God for the games in that way. So, he continued to pray; and as a result, lost his job.
WFA signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in order to support Coach Kennedy and urge the court to protect religious freedom. The brief argued that the First Amendment was expressly written to protect our right to exercise our religion in just such situations as Coach Kennedy did.
Thankfully, the high court upheld Coach K’s right to freely live out his faith in public.
“The Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch in the 6-3 majority opinion, adding that the Constitution “neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression.”
The court rejected the school district’s argument that the coach’s prayers were “coercive” of the players. The decision also corrects the widespread misconception that religious speech and actions must be suppressed to avoid the First Amendment’s ban on the “establishment of religion.”
“Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s,” Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. “Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor. The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”
As the high court claims, our constitution does not require us to abandon our religious traditions and the Establishment Clause does not require schools to fire a coach like Joseph Kennedy.
“Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed a long-standing principle, correctly ruling that teachers and other school employees do not surrender their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate,” Sarah Parshall Perry, a senior legal fellow for The Heritage Foundation, said in a statement.
This is a monumental victory for religious freedom throughout the United States. It serves to protect teachers who bow their heads to give thanks during lunch in the cafeteria, or school employees who wear a cross or religious symbol, as the opinion specifically mentions.
It will not only help preserve a free and diverse society, but also uphold human dignity, which is inseparable from the freedom to express one’s deeply held beliefs.
The Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, who is now our governor, refused to grant an independent Catholic school transportation benefits unless it agreed to not call itself “Catholic.” Now the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court review the case to determine whether the superintendent violated the First Amendment.
Wisconsin provides funding to private schools as long as there is not overlapping attendance between multiple private schools that are affiliated with the same sponsor. The Department of Public Instruction denied students at St. Augustine transportation because there is another Catholic school in the area. St. Augustine, however, is independent and not affiliated with Archdiocese, rendering Evers’ decision unlawful.
WILL previously won a lawsuit when an appeal court ruled that Tony Evers did break the law. However, the court did not address the constitutional question regarding religious liberty.
It’s clear that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prohibits Evers from giving St. Augustine school this ultimatum.
“The critical constitutional questions at the heart of this case remain unresolved,” said Anthony LoCoco, deputy counsel for WILL. “Government bureaucrats cannot withhold a benefit by imposing their own religious definitions on institutions like St. Augustine School.”
Government officials have been hostile toward private and religious schools in Wisconsin and refused transportation funding for years, suggesting that their discrimination is intentional.
“I do think one takeaway from this case is just how far government officials are willing to go in fights against parents and families in private schools. We’ve been at this now for six years, and we’ve been to the Supreme Court twice now, and they’re still unwilling to pay this transportation aid,” LoCoco continued. “The ordinary Wisconsin family cannot afford six years of litigation just to get their kids to school.”
The court’s decision will impact not just Catholics, but people of all faith backgrounds. Any institution that identifies with a religion could be denied funding or discriminated against if the court sides with Evers’ decision. If institutions must decide between professing their faith and receiving funding to keep their operations running, they do not truly have religious liberty.
Every institution and every individual must be free to express their faith and identify with a religion, without contingencies. This is the very principle that our country was founded on. “The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights,” wrote Thomas Jefferson.
Any effort to repress this freedom is an attack on the very foundation of America.
Further, any refusal to allow religious liberty is also an attack on human dignity. Our ability to contemplate the transcendent, search for Truth, and profess our faith is bound to our humanity.
Join Wisconsin Family Action in prayer that the US Supreme Court establishes justice and protects human dignity by upholding religious liberty in Wisconsin, and use your voice to talk to your neighbors about this continued assault on religious freedom right here in our own backyards.
National Religious Freedom Day is this Sunday, January 16th. This day was established to celebrate our ability to freely exercise our religious liberty since our country’s inception. Unfortunately, this freedom is now under attack in America, even from our own government. Between tyrannical vaccine mandates and other discriminatory practices, our rights have been severely compromised. We are hopeful, however, that the US Supreme Court will make sound decisions in a couple of critical religious freedom cases.
Ironically, just two days after National Religious Freedom Day, on January 18, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Shurtleff v. Boston. The question at hand is whether the City of Boston violated a Christian organization’s right to free speech by disallowing Camp Constitution to temporarily raise its flag on the City Hall flagpoles. The City had previously allowed private organizations to raise 284 flags. The Commissioner of Boston’s Property Management Department claimed that the City’s policy was to avoid flying religious flags in adherence to the First Amendment’s prohibition of government-established religion. Religious freedom, however, was never meant to be interpreted as shielding the public from any mention of religion.
Generally, the government is supposed to be viewpoint neutral, which means if the flag represents the speech of Camp Constitution, then the Camp and religious freedom should prevail. If the court determines that the flags on the flagpole represent the City of Boston’s speech, then the outcome may be different. We are hopeful the Court will recognize and uphold Camp Constitution’s right to free speech.
Wisconsin Family Action is actively fighting for religious liberty. Just last week, we signed onto an amicus brief filed to the US Supreme Court with regard to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) nationwide vaccine mandate. The brief states that unelected administrative agencies such as OSHA tend to neglect religious freedom by viewing it as “an afterthought, an inconvenience that stands in the way of their desired policy.” Religious liberty is foundational to our nation – not an afterthought.
Further, the brief notes that OSHA bypassed the traditional lawmaking process through state legislatures. Unaccountable government agencies circumvent legislatures too often, as OSHA has done here. Ultimately, OSHA’s mandate causes “indirect coercion [that] contradicts fundamental religious autonomy principles.” The Court heard oral arguments for this case this past Friday, January 7th, and we are now awaiting their decision.
Religious freedom must be non-negotiable. This right is a bedrock of our country and a necessity for human flourishing. On Religious Freedom Sunday, let’s pray for the preservation of this essential right in the United States. Putting our prayer and faith to action, we must also continue doing everything we can in the culture and in every level of government to stand up, show up, and speak up for our “First Freedom.”