July 19, 2021
Center for 1776
Cancel Culture, Contraception Mandates, and COVID Restrictions
July 19, 2021
Our First Amendment freedoms to preserve civil society are now under relentless attack from a government bent on control.
Freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly face a wave of new challenges from the government. Instead of encouraging wide-ranging debate and free speech, the government has abetted mega corporations in stifling such speech. President Trump’s class action lawsuit against Big Tech addresses this problem: due to the network effect (where the value of any network increases exponentially with the number of people using it, thereby gaining even more users), a handful of tech companies now serve as gatekeepers to the information flow for the entire world. Google and Facebook alone account for over 60 percent of digital ad revenue online. These few sites increasingly use their forums to shut down alternative viewpoints on politics, medicine, and current events and point to immunities granted to them at the dawn of the Internet Age intended primarily to address child pornography as providing protection from any and all legal recourse. While some Circuit Courts have deemed these gatekeepers a “public forum,” major issues of Big Tech’s ability to shut down information flow have not been resolved. Knight First Amdt. Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Trump, 928 F. 3d 226 (2019). Since the announcement of President Trump’s class action lawsuit, over 50,000 Americans have submitted stories of censorship.
These infringements on freedom of speech mirror encroachments on the freedom of religion. Instead of respecting the rights of spiritual Americans to act in accordance with their deeply held beliefs, left-leaning administrations have tried to force religious non-profits to comply with their view of life and the family or face punishment. For years, the Obama Administration fought the Catholic nuns, “The Little Sisters of the Poor,” in court in an effort to try and force them to provide contraceptive coverage under Obamacare, although they hold a longstanding theological doctrine that contraception is a sin. The case was finally resolved in 2020 in favor of The Little Sisters by a divided Supreme Court. Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, 591 U.S. ____ (2020).
State and federal COVID restrictions dramatically impinged on the right of assembly as Americans were barred from gatherings of all sorts. Of greatest concern, strict capacity restrictions were imposed for religious worship services in some states—no more than 10 worshippers in “red zones” in New York allowed—while casinos and liquor stores remained open. Early cases that made it to the Supreme Court upheld these restrictions. Only after Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation did the tide finally shift for the Court to issue injunctive relief that allowed churches to exercise their faith without onerous restrictions. Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, 592 U.S. ____ (2020).
These recent affronts only show the foresight of the Founders in drafting the Bill of Rights. As encroachments on religion, speech, and assembly occur, we must remember the First Amendment’s purpose in defending our first liberties.