Free Speech in China, Religious Liberty in the USA, and Forcing Pro-Lifers to Promote Abortion

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Chinese Dissident Dies in Prison. Leading dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo died last Thursday. He was 61 and had been suffering from liver cancer. Imprisonment and delayed medical care likely hastened his death. Liu was a leading figure in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and since then has been a strong advocate for free speech and other liberties. He was the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since the Nazi era. Chinese state officials censored coverage of his death, even shutting down BBC broadcasts of the news. Critics of America’s increasingly open policies with China have pointed to Liu and this censorship as yet another reason the Chinese government can’t be trusted on human rights.

Prayer Prohibited. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided 10-5 to prohibit Rowan County, N.C., from opening commission meetings with an invocation by government officials. According to First Liberty Institute, who is representing the commissioners, “This decision comes three years after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that legislative meetings may open with a prayer given by local religious leaders even if all the prayer givers are of the same faith.” Mike Berry, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Institute, said, “While we are disappointed in the Fourth Circuit’s decision to ban invocations before legislative meetings contrary to Supreme Court precedent, we are encouraged that the split in the vote on the Fourth Circuit demonstrates the need for Supreme Court review on this issue.”

Florist Appeals to Supreme Court. Barronelle Stutzman, the floral artist from Washington state, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case. She wants the high court to reverse a decision by the state’s Supreme Court saying the government can force her to participate in a same-sex wedding. Stutzman’s attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are asking the high court to consolidate Stutzman’s case with a similar ADF case that the court already accepted, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which involves cake artist Jack Phillips.

Free Advertising for Abortionists? Alliance Defending Freedom is working on another free speech case that bears watching. An Oahu, Hawaii, pro-life pregnancy care center and a network of pregnancy care centers, with five affiliates in Hawaii, filed a federal lawsuit last week. They are suing state officials over a law that, according to ADF, “forces pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry.” The trouble began in May, when the Hawaii Legislature approved Senate Bill 501, requiring all “limited service pregnancy centers” —those that do not perform abortions—to tell patients where they can get an abortion. The bill then went to Gov. David Ige for his signature. Gov. Ige refused to act, and according to the state’s constitution, the bill has since become law. Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor’s “A Place for Women” pregnancy care center and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates filed suit to challenge the new law as unconstitutional and halt its enforcement.

Image courtesy of LewisTsePuiLung at iStock by Getty Images.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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