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The Government Cannot Compel Speech

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The Government Cannot Compel Speech

Conservatives and civil libertarians were up in arms last year over the case of the bakery that was required by law to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The baker didn’t want to bake the cake as same-sex marriages were against his religious values.

This was largely debated as a religious liberty issue, and there is certainly a case to be made for that. There is also my preferred argument that it isn’t the government’s job to tell anyone how to run their business, or what products they must sell, and to whom.

The government should not be able to compel speech. The government compelling speech is as wrong as the government prohibiting speech. It’s not the government’s job to tell us what we must or must not say.

It is this same principle that applies to a story about four US Congressmen who are sponsoring a bill that would require cadets at the Air Force Academy to say, “So help me God” as part of their annual oath. My own Congressman, Doug Lamborn, is one of the four.

Rep. Sam Johnson from Texas is the bill’s prime sponsor. He said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015, would protect the religious freedom of American troops. Fair enough. It is currently an optional part of the oath, and cadets may say it.

But why try to compel those cadets who are not religious to say, “So help me God?” Why is it acceptable to compel this speech, when it’s not acceptable to compel the speech of the baker? And for those who were in favor of requiring the baker to bake the cake, but are against this “So help me God” bill, that is not philosophically consistent either.

Both sides need to check their premises. The government either can tell us what to say or they cannot tell us what to say. You can’t have it both ways.

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. As for me and mine,.. the gov’t will never tell me what to say, think or purchase. I will not comply.

    I have one master and that is GOD almighty. To him I pledge my loyalty and life.

  2. Laura Carno, I agree with your premise and raise another example. The idea recently floated by President Obama re mandatory voting needs to be vehemently opposed for this very reason. Free speech means I am free to voice my opinion or keep my opinion to myself, i.e., no compulsion to speak, whether by taking an oath with God’s help,frosting a cake, pulling a lever or filling out a ballot by hand. Mandatory means force or pressure to comply. Government has no business pressuring citizens directly or indirectly to vote. Non voters may send a clear message by not voting and Obama is well aware of this.

    1. how mandatory voting works in Australia, the Gov’t simply compels your attendance. You can leave your ballot blank. I’d also like to see an option to vote “no confidence” for any candidate in a race and compel better candidates.

      When it comes to the baker, I’m not sure how much has to be rehashed. I will stipulate though that if the baker solely did religious wedding cakes for religions that forbade same-sex marriage, and this was documented, advertised and well known, there might be a defense. But if they sell other celebratory cakes, there’s no defense. If you can make an atheist birthday or retirement cake, you can make an atheist wedding cake. Heck- if you say you’ll make a wedding cake for any religious wedding, you better be prepared for religious customers whose religion condones same-sex marriage.

      But in the end, why done we just act like adults and treat people with a little decency, because when one person throws a fit and says they won’t do something, other people just find a way around it anyway. Loopholes will be exploited and the tantrum throwers will do it anyway.

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