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How to Repeal the First Amendment in Five Easy Steps
by David French, ADF Senior Counsel

Across the country, Alliance Defense Fund attorneys are defending Christian students in professional programs – particularly the social sciences – who are facing expulsion, academic censure, or denial of their state license because of the anti-faith prejudices of instructors, administrators, and private professional organizations. Even worse, a series of adverse court decisions are compounding these violations of students’ constitutionally protected freedoms.

A study of these decisions reveals a dependable "How To" guide for erasing personal freedom:

Step 1: Launch a debate within key private professional organizations (e.g, the National Association of Social Workers [NASW] or the American Counseling Association [ACA]) about the need for "social justice" within the profession. Argue stridently that social workers and/or counselors should be leading advocates for "equality" or "diversity."

Step 2: Incorporate this view within extraordinarily broad rules of ethics. For example, ACA rules of ethics say counselors cannot "condone" (whatever that means) discrimination on the basis of: "[A]ge, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/ spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status/ partnership, language preference, socioeconomic status, or any basis pro-scribed by law."

The NASW code of ethics is even more broad: "Social workers should not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability."

"Can a state entity – such as a graduate school or a licensing board  – actually prohibit a person from 'condoning' discrimination?"

Rules of this breadth can mean literally anything – including an ethical requirement to "speak out" against (subjectively defined) injustice or discrimination – and have been interpreted to reach even discriminatory thoughts that may cross a person’s mind when viewing a client file.

Step 3: Convince public entities (colleges, state licensing boards) that they must teach and apply these privately generated ethical rules to students and members of the profession. Apply the rules of ethics to expel or punish students who deviate from ideological norms of the profession.

Step 4: When challenged, argue that the First Amendment doesn’t really apply in your case – after all, you’re merely "teaching professional standards" or applying "rules of ethics." Appeal to a court’s often innate desire not to interfere with university curriculum or professional ethics. Do everything you can to avoid talking about the text of the actual rules themselves.

Step 5: Celebrate your victory… for now, anyway. In time, federal courts will see through the ethical/curricular smokescreen and examine the ethical rules themselves. Can a state entity – such as a graduate school or a licensing board – actually prohibit a person from "condoning" discrimination? Can the state even define what that means? Is a state licensing board or state faculty truly subordinate to the ideological whims of a private professional association?

Eventually, this issue will be even more sharply defined, then settled, by the courts. Private professional associations like ACA and NASW derive their cultural/legal power not from force of law, but from their longstanding reputation as dispassionate professional regulators. But will that reputation last, as they increasingly abandon themselves to explicit ideological advocacy? Will courts continue to defer to them and the public professional schools they control?

We pray not.

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