The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan prohibits “public accommodations” (i.e., businesses) from discriminating on the basis of, among other things, political beliefs. Historically, liberal cities around the country have passed controversial nondiscrimination ordinances that, in addition to race, sex and religion, cover things like sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Such SOGI laws have caused all sorts of problems for Christians, privacy, parental rights, and public safety.
But Ann Arbor’s ordinance goes even further, and in doing so, clearly highlights another problem resulting from political correctness run amok in these types of laws: the willful infringement of free speech.
A couple of young Ann Arbor conservatives, Grant Strobl and Jacob Chludzinski, who opened a political consulting business called ThinkRight Strategies, are feeling the heat of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. As their business name suggests, they support conservative ideas and want to work solely for conservative causes and candidates they believe in.
But there’s that strange ordinance that says they can’t. If they work to promote free trade and capitalism, they also must agree to work for clients who want to further socialism or communism. If they represent a Republican candidate, they must also agree to represent Democrats, Socialists, and anyone else who asks. If they work on a cause that promotes American exceptionalism, they’d also have to work on a campaign that denigrates and condemns America. If they promote a pro-life cause, they must also agree to work on behalf of the abortion industry.
Do you see a First Amendment problem there?
Strobl and Chludzinski do, and they are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom in a lawsuit seeking to have the Ann Arbor ordinance—or at least the part that affects their political consulting business—declared unconstitutional.
Government cannot compel speech from a speaker who disagrees with the government’s message. But that’s exactly what the Ann Arbor ordinance forces Strobl and Chludzinski to do. And political speech, which is the foundation of ThinkRight Strategies’ mission, is at the core of the First Amendment’s protections.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed this basic First Amendment principle against compelled speech in the 2018 NIFLA v. Becerra decision.
Ann Arbor’s defense of its suspect ordinance will be interesting to watch.
The case is ThinkRight Strategies, LLC v. City of Ann Arbor
Photo from Alliance Defending Freedom