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Attorneys actively involved in religious liberty, abortion cases comment on topics that arose at Thursday’s Republican debate

WASHINGTON – The five remaining Republican candidates for president of the United States discussed a variety of topics at Thursday’s debate in Texas, and among those topics were religious freedom, Planned Parenthood, and partial-birth abortion.

When asked about the religious freedom of creative professionals, one of the candidates seemed to confuse the subject with denying service to an entire class of persons based on a protected characteristic: “Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow, maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced. I mean, if you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave.”

Alliance Defending Freedom represents numerous creative professionals who have been sued for their beliefs, including floral artist Barronelle Stutzman, cake artist Jack Phillips, and T-shirt printer Blaine Adamson.

“There’s a crucial difference between declining to serve an entire class of persons regardless of what they request and declining to promote a message you disagree with regardless of who requests it,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “All of the clients that ADF represents would agree that business owners should not decline service to an entire class of persons based on their sexual orientation, marital status, or any other protected status. They have all done business with people who have openly identified as LGBT. In addition, our clients, like all other people who create or promote messages, have the constitutionally protected freedom to decline to communicate ideas that conflict with their deepest convictions. This is a right we all enjoy, and if it is taken away from our clients, everyone else stands to lose it as well. So while none of them would have a problem serving a person of any sexual orientation or marital status, they would have a problem with being forced, for example, to participate in a same-sex ceremony or with making a cake that says, ‘Divorce is great.’”

With regard to Planned Parenthood, another candidate expressed support for Planned Parenthood but was confused on data about the abortion giant: “I’m totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood, but millions and millions of women—cervical cancer, breast cancer—are helped by Planned Parenthood…. I would defund it because of the abortion factor. They say it’s three percent. I don’t know what percentage it is, they say it’s three percent.”

“Planned Parenthood is America’s number one abortion seller, and the three percent figure is a myth propagated by Planned Parenthood itself,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “It’s also a myth that Planned Parenthood offers comprehensive health services for women. Anyone saying Planned Parenthood does mammograms, for example, is actually accusing it of violating federal law. It does not offer any mammograms because it isn’t even licensed to offer them. In addition, community health clinics across the nation that do provide comprehensive services for women outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities 20 to 1. The truth is Planned Parenthood makes millions off American women and taxpayers while funding politicians to keep its revenues coming. In the end, American women—and American taxpayers—don’t need Planned Parenthood at all, especially given that it continues to be rocked by scandal after scandal after scandal.”

The same candidate also wrongly claimed that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had once supported a partial-birth abortion decision that the candidate’s sister, a fellow judge, wrote while Alito was serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

“This is simply factually wrong,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman, who clerked for Alito during his time at the 3rd Circuit. “In the case being referred to, Judge Alito explicitly wrote that he did not join the other judge’s opinion, which she wrote against New Jersey’s ban on partial-birth abortion. Later, when on the Supreme Court, he helped overturn bad precedent and ruled against partial-birth abortion.”
  • Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh), Mattox (MAT’-ucks), Bowman (BOH'-min)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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