June 26, 2018
Carson City, NV – Today's Becerra decision is another important victory for free speech. The decision protects private citizens from having the government force them to make statements with which they disagree when those statements serve no medical or anti-fraud purpose. Nevada, along with almost half of the states, joined a friend-of-the-court brief addressing a California law’s infringement on the First Amendment. After considering the arguments, the Supreme Court reinforced the rights of private individuals and organizations not to be forced to promote the government's message.
The Becerra case involves a California law forcing private pro-life pregnancy care centers to promote abortion services. But the constitutional issues in the case extend much broader than that context. The California law struck down by the Supreme Court was not a neutral law—it required private organizations to provide non-medical information that was unrelated to the pregnancy support services they provided, while exempting other types of health-care providers from its requirements. As Justice Kennedy explained in his concurring opinion, “…viewpoint discrimination is inherent in the design and structure of [California’s law]. This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression.… And the history of the Act’s passage and its underinclusive application suggest a real possibility that these individuals were targeted because of their beliefs.”
The ruling, which rests exclusively on free speech grounds, does not affect abortion providers; it neither requires them to change their practices nor infringes on their ability to provide abortions. The Supreme Court correctly held that compelling private organizations to promote the government's preferred message under those circumstances is inconsistent with the First Amendment. This is an important holding ensuring that the government cannot simply force private speakers with whom it disagrees to also promote the government's preferred message, especially when there are other ways for the government to promote its own message without interfering with private speech.
To view the U.S. Supreme Court’s issued opinion, click here.