I frequently speak at college campuses and other gatherings about Alliance Defending Freedom’s work. And I’ve learned through these experiences, and much trial and error, the truth of a maxim I recently read:
“We live in the Age of Story … That is, whoever owns the best story wins.”
Put a different way, I learned that people were far more receptive to what I had to say about First Amendment freedoms if I first connected with their hearts.
For example, I speak a lot about Barronelle Stutzman’s case, and I am regularly asked: “Why doesn’t she just design the flowers for the same-sex ceremony?” Before I internalized the above maxim, I would jump straight into explaining our rights to the freedom of speech and expression—and how Washington State is violating those precious freedoms. Which is all true.
But taken in the abstract, that approach is rarely convincing.
I learned that it’s far better to tell people Baronelle’s story first—how she and Rob had struck up a friendship and how she had gladly served him for nearly 10 years, designing floral art for all sorts of occasions in his life. I tell them about when Rob came in to ask Barronelle to design custom floral arrangments celebrating his same-sex wedding, and how she took his hand in hers and explained that she couldn’t do that because of her relationship with Jesus. And how she then referred him to three other floral artists who she knew would do a good job. Then I explain how the Washington Attorney General came after Barronelle, even though no complaint had been made against her.
With the heart persuaded, I nearly always found my audience more open to hearing about a foundational First Amendment freedom at play in Baronelle’s case: that the government has no power to force its citizens to express messages that violate their deepest convictions. This freedom protects not just Baronelle, but all of us.
You may have had a similar experience with a neighbor, a coworker, or even someone at the gym. When people hear our stories, their feelings about ADF clients change, and they are moved to a deeper understanding and appreciation for the freedoms upon which our great nation is built.
Beginning this week, we are proud to present “Freedom Matters,” a new ADF initiative to engage Americans by telling the stories of our clients and explaining the fundamental freedoms at stake in their cases.
Our first video features Bernadette Tasy, a student who sued a professor at her college after he… well, we don’t want to give the story away. Let’s just say that, at one point, the professor told Bernadette that “college campuses are not free speech areas.”
To find out just how wrong he was and what happened to him, please take a few moments to watch the first Freedom Matters story. Afterwards, please be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to be the first to hear about each new video when it premieres.
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