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Free speech, religious freedom for all

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On January 12, a group of odd allies gathered—albeit virtually—at the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of the First Amendment right to speak freely. The  caseUzuegbunam v. Preczewski, asked whether government officials, including those at public colleges, should be accountable to victims when they violate constitutional rights. Stemming from college administrators’ decisions that barred student Chike Uzuegbunam from sharing his Christian faith on campus at Georgia Gwinnett College, Chike’s defense was supported by friend-of-the-court briefs filed by Muslim groups as well as those on the political left, including the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Alliance Defending Freedom, where I serve as senior counsel and senior vice president for communications, has represented Chike for several years. That includes at the nation’s high court, which on March 8 delivered an 8-1 ruling that upholds constitutionally protected freedoms, not just for Christians like Chike, but for all Americans.

For ADF, it’s the 12th time since 2011 that we’ve won at the U.S. Supreme Court. And as with our previous victories, we’re not celebrating alone.

Freedom of speech, like freedom of association or religious exercise, isn’t just for a select few. It’s for everyone. And that’s what causes groups from such a wide spectrum of beliefs to join together and advocate for the God-given rights enshrined in the First Amendment.

The American Humanist Association—a group that takes issue with the very phrase “God-given rights”—noted our shared commitments well in its brief supporting Chike: “While the AHA and the Alliance Defending Freedom … stand on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum, they unite in their esteem for First Amendment liberties and their conviction that such rights are meaningless if they cannot be vindicated.”

On a similar note, another Alliance Defending Freedom case that will soon be argued at the Supreme Court—Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra—has also attracted broad support. Asking the court to reaffirm its 1958 decision in NAACP v. Alabama, more than 40 diverse organizations that include the NAACP, the ACLU, and the Human Rights Campaign stand with us in our effort to ensure that every American is free to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation.

Jeremy Tedesco

Jeremy Tedesco

Representing clients at the Supreme Court is nothing new for the Alliance Defending Freedom. Based in Scottsdale and working to advance freedom in the U.S. and throughout the world, the Alliance Defending Freedom is among the nation’s most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates. Including our 12 victories at the U.S. Supreme Court since 2011, ADF has played roles in over 60 Supreme Court victories since 1994. We have also won hundreds of free speech victories on college campuses protecting students of varied religious faiths, political beliefs, and backgrounds.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, some opponents distribute false information in the form of smear attacks against ADF. Unfortunately, an example of this from the Secular Coalition of Arizona recently appeared in the form of an opinion piece for the Arizona Capitol Times. Taking the blunderbuss approach, the piece throws every canard at the wall in hopes that one will stick. None do. Worse, its false assertions are based on the ugliest possible stereotypes of people of every faith.

What the Secular Coalition does not understand about ADF and millions of other religious believers—not just of the Christian faith but of all faiths—is that our faith is what inspires us to protect freedom for everyone. We want what is best for our neighbors and our communities. We want a society where people are free to explore life’s deepest questions and to speak and live out their convictions in the public square. And we are committed to helping our neighbors and serving our society by advocating for the freedom of everyone to express their ideas and practice their religion, regardless of whether we agree with their views or share their faith.

The diversity of groups standing with the Alliance Defending Freedom in our current Supreme Court cases shows the way forward. Despite our differences, we must work together to protect each other’s freedoms. That’s the surest path to realizing our Constitution’s promise of free speech and religious freedom for all.

Jeremy Tedesco is senior counsel and senior vice president communications for Alliance Defending Freedom.

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