2017 a banner year for the First Amendment
WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom wrapped up 2017 at the forefront of the largest legal battles in defense of the First Amendment. With a critical victory at the U.S. Supreme Court and two other cases in progress there, ADF action in defense of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience—including artistic freedom—is having far-reaching effects for the good of all Americans.
“The government has no business preventing any American from engaging in free speech, nor should it use its coercive power to force anyone to promote a message with which they disagree,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “ADF has been honored to be involved in many important cases this past year, and chief among those have been state and federal cases involving freedom of expression and the freedom to live according to one’s beliefs.”
Significant ADF highlights from 2017 include the following:
- Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer: On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the government cannot exclude churches and other faith-based organizations from a secular government program simply because of their religious identity.
- Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: On Dec. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of cake artist Jack Phillips, whom the state of Colorado ordered to design custom wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriages if he creates other wedding cakes. His case, as well as the similar case of Barronelle Stutzman which ADF appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on July 14, potentially have huge ramifications for artistic freedom, religious freedom, and freedom of conscience.
- National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra: On Nov. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up this ADF case, which challenges a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. Michael Farris—who became the new president, CEO, and general counsel of ADF in 2017—will argue the case before the high court in the spring of 2018.
- Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals: On May 12, the Kentucky Court of Appeals issued a ruling that affirmed printer Blaine Adamson’s freedom to decline orders with messages that violate his religious beliefs. The case is currently on appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
- Amy Lynn Photography Studio v. City of Madison: On Aug. 23, a Wisconsin trial court found that creative professionals like Amy Lawson who don’t have storefronts can’t be punished under public accommodation laws for exercising their artistic freedom.
- Cochran v. City of Atlanta: On Dec. 20, a federal district court determined that city of Atlanta rules which led to the termination of Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran are unconstitutional. The court found that the city’s policies restricting non-work speech, like a book for Christian men that Cochran wrote, are too broad and allow city officials to unconstitutionally discriminate against views with which they disagree.
- Multiple victories on public university campuses: The ADF Center for Academic Freedom chalked up numerous victories in 2017, including wins in favor of student free speech and other First Amendment freedoms at the University of Virginia, the Massachusetts Community College System, Queens College of New York, Fresno State University, Macomb Community College in Michigan, the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Colorado State University, Iowa State University, Grand Valley State University in Michigan, California State University Los Angeles, and the University of Southern Maine.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.