Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Compelled Speech: Using Government Force to Spread Partisan Messaging

Suppose you and a group of like-minded folk -- sympathetic to the plight of the long-termed unemployed -- develop a plan to assist willing job seekers.

So you organize a non-profit organization. You collect donations of clean, good quality apparel and shoes. You also collect used computers and printers, a copier, a fax machine, a cash register. You also collect donation of personal grooming products included new used razors, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, toothbrushes, toothpastes. You solicit volunteers to teach about office practices, counter sales, and work ethics. You find a small group of volunteer mentors that can assist with things like the process of getting a job and the things that allow an employee to stay employed and gain advancement.

The plan?

Your group raises sufficient funds to open a small set of offices, the mock up of a sales counter, and a mock up of an office setting including workstations and a copy room. You create a one-stop, volunteer-manned, source for assistance to those in employment crises. Once ready, you place advertisements on buses, commuter trains, a billboard or two, and in the yellow pages under employment services. Your ads invite those with critical unemployment or underemployment issues to receive counseling and assistance on alternatives to unemployment.

Your program offers free resume preparation, free basic office training, including computer use, and operation of office machines, and free retail sales training. Participants receive free training on job interview techniques, as well as assistance applying for work. Successful completion of the voluntary program is rewarded with two work appropriate outfits of clothing and shoes, and necessary personal toiletries.

True, neither you nor your fellow volunteers is a licensed human resources trainer, a licensed social worker, a licensed teacher. But the lack of such participating volunteers is not a reflection on your desire to have these types of folks working with your project. Rather, folks with those kinds of qualifications either are too busy with other activities, or, for some, they may consider programs like yours ineffective, or worse, harmful because they distract the unemployed from pursuing assistance through licensed, even state-operated, facilities.

The truth is, some of those folks are rather goaded by your program and its persistence. Their agitation only increases as small successes result in others borrowing your idea and spreading it to other cities in your State.

What to do? What to do? The answer for such naysayers is obvious. Bully you. Bully those that work with you. Bully you out of existence if they can do so.

In the early days of their opposition, they contact yellow pages publishers. Here their goal is to harangue them until, despite the income you provide by purchasing advertisements, the publisher complies with their demands. Initially, of course, they just assert that your ads are fraudulent misrepresentations because they are not actually employment service agencies. Ultimately, your opponents threaten the yellow pages publishers with consumer fraud litigation and prosecution until the yellow pages decides that its financial interests require it to move your ads to some other heading apart from where employment service agencies typically appear.

Still, your determination holds. You and your fellow volunteer redouble your efforts, and continue to enjoy the small successes of those who rejoin the work force.

Unhappy that your efforts have not been sufficiently stymied by their first line of attack, your opponents decide that they should enlist the State legislature to drive you out of existence. A notorious legislative friend of theirs conducts a "study" of your organization's work. The "study" challenges your techniques. They criticize the teaching methods, drawing, for example, as you do, a connection between employee reliability and employment longevity, and between employee drug-dependence and job loss. Offended that your gallant and dedicated group of volunteers engage in something they like to call "moralizing," your opponents cheer the "study" and get it noised about in news media.

As a onerous next straw, the state legislature adopts a law requiring unlicensed, voluntary employment assistance agencies to post a sign in the entrances to their offices and to include include in their advertisements a warning that "This Agency Does Not Employ Any Licensed Employment Counselors, Any Licensed Social Workers, Any Licensed Teachers."

Not that you ever claimed otherwise. Nor that you would refuse such volunteers if they supported your goals and would volunteer to provide services. Still, the Legislature believes that forcing you to say such things will result in some participants turning away at the door, keep others from even showing up, and p, eventually lead to programs such as yours withering on the vine.

You think that the foregoing is not a likely scenario?

If that's what you think, then you are, apparently, unfamiliar with previous efforts by Montgomery County and Baltimore, Maryland, and the City of New York, or the current effort of the California General Assembly to suppress the work of pregnancy resource centers. Just about everything in my proposed factual scenario matches the work of such centers. Volunteer organized, volunteer run. Volunteer participants. Free help. Free supplies. Free. Free. Free. All offered because these centers are being offered by folks who believe that there are, there have to be, humane and caring alternatives to abortion. More than just believing that such alternatives must exist, they have acted to create such alternatives and to reinforce them.

Well, the fact scenario I offer is different. It involves volunteers working with the unemployed. But Montgomery County, Baltimore, New York City, all decided that it is perfectly appropriate to target volunteer organizations that provide resources to pregnant women. Now California is preparing to follow in those ill-advised and Statist footsteps. And, California takes these steps knowing that the existing regulations in Montgomery County, Baltimore, and New York City have already been found to implicate fundamental rights of speech and association protected by the First Amendment.

Yet, the California General Assembly is on track to adopt such a law. Assembly Bill 775, if enacted, will require pregnancy resource services -- entirely voluntary, entirely free, and quite often organized around concepts of religious duty -- to post signs in their lobbies and to include messages in their advertising selected for them, imposed on them, by the State. Those signs and messages would warn potential users of their services that there is no doctor or other licensed medical personnel on the premises.

"Tapping out."

You might be familiar with this concept from the martial arts. When you are being pinned down and cannot free yourself, you can indicate surrender by rapidly slapping the mat, or your thigh, etc. many of us remember having to, or requiring others to cry, "uncle" as part of childhood rough-housing. For Statist pro-abortion types, the equivalent here is for pregnancy resource centers to close.

Oddly, such Statists are often the same ones that freak at the notion of American coins bearing the legend "In God We Trust," or at the use of the Bible in administering courtroom oaths. They are the same folks that salute attacks on such license plate mottoes as "Live Free or Die."

But Statists have no problem prying open the mouths of persons who hold deeply held religious beliefs about abortion and shoving government messages inside them with the knowledge that when they vomit the government message, those that they would assist on a voluntary, no-cost basis will flee. More than hubris. More than disregard for constitutional rights. These Statists are Luddite Speech Nazis, and should be shamed publicly as such.