The following was written by John Gerardi, Attorney and Legal Analyst for our sister organization, California Family Council and California Family Alliance. Used by permission.
On Monday, January 11, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a crucial case about religious liberty and freedom of speech. Experts believe this case could send shockwaves across the country. Please read the following explanation and pray for success for Ms. Friedrichs and for wisdom for the nine justices.
In this case, California public school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, along with nine other public school teachers and the Christian Educators Association, are disputing their obligation under California law to pay labor union dues to the California Teachers Association (CTA) and their national and local affiliates.
What are the issues?
- Compelled Speech:
- Ms. Friedrichs argues state laws compelling teachers to contribute to the union’s collective bargaining efforts—even when they disagree with those efforts for political and public policy reasons—violate teachers’ rights to free speech.
- The Supreme Court has consistently viewed financial contributions for a given cause (particularly to a political cause) as the functional equivalent of speech, and thus protected by the First Amendment.
- Ms. Friedrichs argues that the state violates the First Amendment by requiring teachers to contribute to the Union’s collective bargaining efforts, even when the teachers disagree with their union on this often-politically charged issue.
- Mandatory Opt-Out:
- Teachers’ unions expend only 65% of a teacher’s membership dues on collective bargaining efforts. The other 35% goes to the union’s overtly political activities: endorsing or opposing specific political candidates, ballot initiatives, and pieces of legislation.
- The candidates and issues CTA supports are, invariably, extremely liberal and opposed to Christian teachings on abortion, gay marriage, and other moral issues. If a teacher does not want to support the union’s favored political positions, they can avoid paying the 35% only by affirmatively opting out every year.
- The consistent history of Supreme Court First Amendment cases holds that the burden should not be on individuals to “opt out” of participation in Union lobbying activities (i.e., compelled speech) with which they do not agree—rather, they should be given the option to “opt in.”
Why is Friedrichs v. CTA so important?
This case is important because many teachers do not know about—or actively disagree with—the liberal political causes and collective bargaining efforts their unions engage in. Eliminating the requirement to affirmatively opt out of overtly political activity will protect the religious freedom and free-speech rights of teachers and other public-sector employees throughout the state who do not wish to contribute to causes opposed to Judeo-Christian moral teachings. This will weaken the political influence of teacher’s unions in areas unrelated to their collective bargaining functions. Furthermore, by eliminating the obligation to support collective bargaining efforts with which they do not agree, individual teachers will also be protected from supporting union actions that harm students and even other teachers whom the union represents.
What can I do?
The oral arguments for this case will took place the morning of Monday, January 11. We urge you to pray:
- For the Supreme Court Justices to rule with wisdom and justice, and
- For the religious liberty of both these teachers and all those across the country to be defended.