Michael Farris, president, CEO, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), on Saturday outlined the stark, bizarre realities of court cases across the country pitting ordinary people with long-held values against the radical Left intent on using the legal system to erode those values. These realities and the work ADF is doing on behalf of these ordinary citizens were the main themes of his remarks at the Civitas Institute’s 2017 Conservative Leadership Conference, Saturday, June 17 in Raleigh.
One of those cases has garnered widespread attention, involving a florist in Richland, Washington, and a homosexual couple. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, denied service to the couple in 2013, citing her First Amendment rights. The courts in Washington have ruled against her thus far, saying that denying her services as a florist to a homosexual couple seeking those services for a same-sex wedding was a violation of the state’s anti-discrimination law.
Farris said that they are about to file a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the high court to review the case. He said, “This case is one of many that says we have a clash between an absolute view of so-called fairness laws, and religious freedom. And the question is, which of the two will prevail?”
Farris pointed out that a central question in the case focuses on what was the relative harm to the people. In the case of the two men seeking floral services, they could have easily gone somewhere else that Stutzman had recommended who would have been glad to serve them. He said, “The case has been litigated over damages of seven dollars, and six figures in attorney’s fees. So, their harm was seven dollars.”
On the other side, the relative harm to Stutzman comes in the form of those wanting to silence those who do not want to participate in same-sex weddings. Farris said ADF is involved in representing others in business who are facing the same type of attack. For example, Jack Phillips, a baker in Colorado who also did not want to serve a homosexual couple based on his regions beliefs.
Other cases ADF is defending Farris told those at the conference involve college students at Kellogg Community College in Michigan. and Bunker Hill College in Massachusetts, whose students were outside the so-called free speech zone. Students at Kellogg were arrested, and those at Bunker Hill were punished for handing out documents outside the free speech zone. The offending document was the Constitution of the United States.
Farris received strong applause when he boldly stated, “There is a free speech zone that’s appropriate in this country. It’s called America.”
Describing the violence at Berkeley that kept Ann Coulter from being able to speak, Farris said, “Tactics used that are utterly indistinguishable from the tactics of brown shirts and black shirts in Germany and Italy respectively. Violence to silence your opponent is unacceptable in America.”
People of faith are especially being targeted by those who would silence speech with which they do not agree. Farris said ADF is defending a case in Florida in which a student was arrested for speech inside a free speech zone. The speech was the gospel of Jesus Christ, and was offensive to some who heard it. The student was arrested.
In closing, Farris said that he believes we are in the battle of our lives for freedom, and that the next couple of years are crucial in this battle, and that the difference between the two sides can be summed up by saying, “We use freedom to defend freedom. They use totalitarian tactics to destroy freedom.”
Michael P. Farris is president, CEO, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom. In January 2017, he became only the second person to occupy that position in the organization’s 23-year history. He brings to the role a remarkably diverse background as an effective litigator, educator, public advocate, pastor, and communicator, and wide recognition for his successful work on both the national and international stage.
Farris was founding president of both the Home School Legal Defense Association (1983) and Patrick Henry College (2000) and continues to serve as chairman of the board of HSLDA and chancellor emeritus of PHC.
The Conservative Leadership Conference is North Carolina’s largest annual gathering of liberty-loving patriots. This year, #CLC2017 is highlighting innovative strategies for reform by educating, equipping, and inspiring North Carolinians to become better advocates for our freedom.