These States Are Trying to Censor Employers’ Religious Speech

May 31, 2024
States Censor Religious Speech | First Liberty Insider

by Mia Gradick and Jorge Gomez • 4 min read

The Illinois legislature recently passed the “Worker’s Freedom of Speech Act,” a bill that prohibits employers from discussing “religious or political matters” at mandatory meetings. Talk about a deceptive name.

The bill is largely being driven by unions, and many of its proponents claim it will protect workers from religious “intimidation.” But what is the bill’s real goal?

To silence and censor employers.

The bill is an attempt to ban what unions say are employer-sponsored “captive audience meetings” pertaining to religion and politics. It states that employees are excused from “mandatory participation in employer-sponsored meetings if the meeting is designed to communicate an employer’s position on religious or political matters.”

But as the Editorial Board at The Wall Street Journal explains, the bill’s definition of what are “political” or “religious” matters is too broad. And that ambiguity would have a chilling effect. Employers that hold mandatory meetings would have to check their own speech rights at the door:

“Forget about starting a meeting with a prayer. Nor could employers talk about the costs of unions or state policies. Criticizing Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and advocating an expansion of state tax-credit school scholarships would be off-limits. The bill could be construed to prohibit employers from criticizing anti-Israel protesters.”

Legislators claim that the bill doesn’t ban employers from expressing their political or religious views. They say it merely prohibits them from penalizing workers who attend meetings where such matters are discussed.

While lawmakers try to draw this “distinction,” there really is none. At the end of the day, the provisions of the bill trample “on employer First Amendment rights by discriminating based on viewpoint. Their speech prohibitions are so broad and vague that they amount to gag orders,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Illinois isn’t the first to try to muzzle employers. The bill is modeled on similar laws already in place in New York, Oregon, Minnesota, Washington, Maine, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Vermont are considering similar legislation.

Free speech—including the freedom to express religious viewpoints—is at the core of America’s DNA. And as this bill demonstrates, censorship and silencing are becoming more and more prevalent in America.

At a time like this, we must be vigilant of our liberties—now more than ever.

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