The Government Cannot Compel Speech
Conservatives and civil libertarians were up in arms last year over the case of the bakery that was required by law to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The baker didn’t want to bake the cake as same-sex marriages were against his religious values.
This was largely debated as a religious liberty issue, and there is certainly a case to be made for that. There is also my preferred argument that it isn’t the government’s job to tell anyone how to run their business, or what products they must sell, and to whom.
The government should not be able to compel speech. The government compelling speech is as wrong as the government prohibiting speech. It’s not the government’s job to tell us what we must or must not say.
It is this same principle that applies to a story about four US Congressmen who are sponsoring a bill that would require cadets at the Air Force Academy to say, “So help me God” as part of their annual oath. My own Congressman, Doug Lamborn, is one of the four.
Rep. Sam Johnson from Texas is the bill’s prime sponsor. He said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015, would protect the religious freedom of American troops. Fair enough. It is currently an optional part of the oath, and cadets may say it.
But why try to compel those cadets who are not religious to say, “So help me God?” Why is it acceptable to compel this speech, when it’s not acceptable to compel the speech of the baker? And for those who were in favor of requiring the baker to bake the cake, but are against this “So help me God” bill, that is not philosophically consistent either.
Both sides need to check their premises. The government either can tell us what to say or they cannot tell us what to say. You can’t have it both ways.