Why This Graphic Designer Can’t Be Forced to Endorse Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court next week will consider whether Colorado may use a state law to require someone to express someone else’s message.

The case to be argued Monday, called 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis , concerns graphic artist and website designer Lorie Smith, who also is a devout Christian. Smith’s faith, in fact, was part of her motivation in starting the company 303 Creative near Denver, so that she could express her beliefs through her artistic work.

All of that sounds fairly benign. Artists express themselves in various ways all the time. And their expression—their speech—is entitled to First Amendment protection.

Likewise, another person’s protest against the artist’s viewpoint similarly is protected. That is, after all, part of the guarantee of the First Amendment.

As the Supreme Court said in 2011 in Snyder v. Phelps , free speech exists to promote public debate and discourse in an “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” manner. People speak messages they believe in, and the government cannot suppress this speech or force people to change their speech.

Nearly 100 years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis made the point clearly when talking about the Founding Fathers, who he said believed that “freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.”

The 303 Creative case asks whether the government can compel you to “speak as you do not think” in order to serve a general governmental interest in prohibiting discrimination.

The Supreme Court consistently has prohibited “compelled speech” under the First Amendment. In addition to protecting someone’s right to speak, the high court has guarded the “right to refrain from speaking at all.” The right not to speak has protected individuals in Barnette and Wooley v. Maynard , public utilities in PG&E Co. v. Public Utilities Commission of California , and private corporations in Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo .

Whoever is speaking, that person or entity has the right to convey only those messages with which he or it agrees. As the high court stated in Barnette in 1943: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

The state of Colorado disagrees. Colorado wants to force Lorie Smith to express a viewpoint with which she disagrees—that same-sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage.

Colorado says that Smith would violate its non-discrimination law if she refused to create a website promoting a same-sex marriage. Smith is willing to make websites for a wide variety of clients and purposes, but she draws the line when projects would require her to express a viewpoint that she doesn’t hold.

Compelled speech cases should be easy. No one thinks we can force people to believe certain things or promote certain messages. The difficulty comes when free speech rights intersect with public-accommodation laws such as Colorado’s—laws meant to prevent discrimination. When the battle between public accommodations and free speech came to the Supreme Court in 1994 in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston , the justices unanimously chose free speech.

In Hurley , St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers sought to exclude a gay, lesbian, and bisexual advocacy group from marching in the parade because its message was inconsistent with the organizer’s message. And even though the group would be one among many in the parade, the court decided, the “overall message is distilled from the individual presentations along the way, and each unit’s expression is perceived by spectators as part of the whole.”

The government, the justices said, forced “private citizens who organize a parade to include among the marchers a group imparting a message the organizers do not wish to convey.” That, according to the court, was impermissible.

Just last month, a 9th U.S. Court of Appeals case involving compelled speech and an Oregon public accommodations law applied Hurley to side once again with free speech. That case provides a road map for how the Supreme Court may apply Hurley and vindicate free speech again in 303 Creative.

In Anita Green v. Miss United States of America , the 9th Circuit held that the Miss United States of America pageant could exclude Green, a transgender woman, because requiring the pageant to accept Green would compel the pageant to promote a message that was not its own.

The pageant, which has a view of ideal womanhood, adopted guidelines that dictate who may participate to promote the pageant’s view. The most relevant requirement was a “natural-born female” rule. But the pageant also excluded other participants—those outside a certain age range, those who were married or had children, and those who had ever “posed nude in film or print media.”

By implementing and enforcing rules for participation, the pageant controlled the message it communicated. As the appeals court stated, “the p[MK1] ageant’s message cannot be divorced from the pageant’s selection and evaluation of contestants.”

That kind of editorial discretion is commonplace in the pageant world. A Caucasian or Asian woman cannot win the Miss Black USA title. The Ms. Wheelchair America title can be won only by a woman who uses “a wheelchair for 100% of her daily community mobility.”

A multiplicity of pageants exists to showcase diverse viewpoints and messages. Each pageant “speaks” a different message, and each should have a right to do so. But the pageants also have a right to control their own speech.

And the Supreme Court always has agreed. In Wooley v. Maynard (1977), a Jehovah’s Witness took issue with being compelled to display the state motto “Live Free or Die” on his license plate in New Hampshire. The high court agreed that he couldn’t be forced, “as part of his daily life … to be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view he finds unacceptable.”

This and many other Supreme Court cases show that compelling speech is unnecessary; governments can prevent discriminatory conduct and still guarantee that people can speak the messages they choose.

That is all Lorie Smith is trying to do. To have a consistent message, she necessarily must exclude projects that express messages contrary to her beliefs.

Even one item promoting same-sex marriage in Smith’s large portfolio would change the entire tenor of 303 Creative’s message. She would have no issue creating a website for a homosexual man so long as it did not involve a same-sex wedding, just as she may take issue with creating a website for a straight woman who expresses a message she disagrees with.

And that is the key—artists such as Lorie Smith aren’t discriminating against people, they are choosing not to promote certain messages.

Colorado may take a position on certain issues, but Wooley made clear that “where the state’s interest is to disseminate an ideology, no matter how acceptable to some, such interest cannot outweigh an individual’s First Amendment right to avoid becoming the courier for such message.”

Smith shouldn’t be required to promote a message she doesn’t believe in. If the Supreme Court applies Hurley faithfully as the 9th Circuit did in Green, she will be able to speak freely.

That would be a victory for all Americans.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation. 

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6 Points on Felony Theft Case Against Biden Administration’s Gender-Fluid Energy Official

U.S. Energy Department official Samuel Otis Brinton has been heralded by the Biden administration and some media outlets for being one of the first openly “gender-fluid” individuals to serve in a top federal position. 

Brinton, the deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition in the Energy Department of Energy, faces criminal charges of stealing luggage from a Minnesota airport in September. He is on temporary leave from the Energy Department.

Until now, Brinton, 35, probably was best known to Americans for social media posts and other photographs in which he poses in women’s clothes and makeup. 

Here’s what to know about Brinton and the criminal case. 

1. What Are the Charges and Maximum Penalty?

On Oct. 27, prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Brinton in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis, accusing him of stealing a piece of luggage from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. Brinton’s court date is set for Dec. 19. 

The complaint states that the woman who reported her Vera Bradley suitcase as missing has yet to recover the bag and its contents. 

Airport police learned that no clothing was recovered from Brinton’s room at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront hotel, despite Brinton’s saying he left behind clothing from the bag in the Minnesota hotel. 

Brinton is charged under Minnesota law with felony theft involving taking, using, or transporting movable property without consent. 

If convicted of the felony charge, he faces up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. 

2. What Did Energy Department Do About It?

Brinton, who prefers the personal pronouns they, them, and theirs, is the chief federal official overseeing nuclear waste as assistant deputy secretary of the Energy Department’s Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition.

A resident of Rockville, Maryland, he began working at the Energy Department job in June with an annual salary of  $178,063 . He has so-called Q Sensitive clearance, the agency’s equivalent of top secret clearance, according to the National Pulse. 

Brinton tweeted June 29 about sharing the stage with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, for a Pride Month celebration. 

On Tuesday, an Energy Department spokesperson told The Daily Signal in an email:  “Sam Brinton is on leave from DOE, and Dr. Kim Petry is performing the duties of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition.”

The spokesperson didn’t say how long the leave of absence had been in effect, nor whether the leave is paid or unpaid.

The trade publication Exchange Monitor reported Nov. 23 that Petry had been asked to “stay on” during Brinton’s absence as acting deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition. She would do so “for the foreseeable future,” Petry wrote in an email to colleagues late the week before, the publication reported.

Brinton’s most recent tweet related to the Energy Department was Oct. 23, just four days before the formal charges were filed against him.

The New York Post reported Monday that the Energy Department placed Brinton on leave about a month after the Sept. 16 incident at the airport in Minnesota. 

Fox News reported Monday that Brinton was charged shortly before taking a leave of absence.  

The Energy Department spokesperson also would not answer questions about the status of Brinton’s security clearance, whether he would return to the department, and whether the charge against him has been reviewed by the department’s Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Ethics and Personnel Law.

Brinton’s security clearance is equivalent to what the government calls “Critical-Sensitive (CS)/High Risk.” 

The Office of Personnel Management says of this category: “Potential exists to bring about a material adverse effect on the national security, causing exceptionally grave damage. Any position receiving a position sensitivity designation of CS shall automatically carry with that designation, without further agency action, a High Risk designation.”

Though a high-ranking official in the Biden administration, Brinton was not a presidential appointee. 

According to his Energy Department biography page , Brinton “manages ongoing research and development related to long-term disposition of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.”

3. What Is Brinton’s Background?

The Energy Department’s bio of Brinton also notes that he had prior experience in nuclear waste management. He worked on the issue with the Bipartisan Policy Center , a centrist think tank; Breakthrough Institute , an environmental group that supports nuclear energy; the Clean Air Task Force , another environmental organization; and Third Way , a think tank associated with President Bill Clinton and other center-left New Democrats of the 1990s.  

Brinton holds dual graduate degrees in nuclear science and engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Brinton’s Energy Department bio, referring to him as”they,” goes on to say:

Sam is also a well-known advocate for LGBTQ youth and helped to secure protections against the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy in more than half of the country. They identify as gender-fluid and use the pronouns they, them, and theirs.

Brinton’s net worth is about $1 million, according to PopularNetworth.com .  

4. What Did Brinton Allegedly Do? 

On Sept. 16, a female traveler alerted the Airport Police Department at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport that she was missing a piece of luggage.

Law enforcement officers who reviewed surveillance footage that same day saw Brinton remove a navy blue, hard-sided, 26-inch roller bag made by Vera Bradley from Carousel 7, according to the criminal complaint filed in  Hennepin County District Court.  

The victim confirmed, through a digital still of surveillance footage, that it was her bag with total contents worth $2,325, according to the complaint. 

The same style of Vera Bradley luggage sells for $295 from VeraBradley.com. 

Law enforcement confirmed that Brinton arrived at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport at 4:27 p.m. Sept. 16 on a flight from Washington DC and had not checked a bag when he departed Washington.

Law enforcement learned that Brinton stayed at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront hotel, and video surveillance from that hotel showed Brinton checking in with a bag that fit the description of the stolen luggage.

Energy Department officials haven’t released details regarding the purpose of Brinton’s trip, but it’s possible he was in Minnesota regarding developments at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant. 

Bloom Energy announced Sept. 19 that it was working on a demonstration project with Xcel Energy’s nuclear power plant to produce hydrogen. Funding for the project is included in congressional Democrats’ infrastructure spending bill and the Inflation Reduction Act.  

In January, Xcel had sought permission from state and federal regulators to use a different type of storage cask for its nuclear waste. 

5. How Did Brinton Change His Story?

On Sept. 18, Brinton departed the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport, where video surveillance recorded him checking the blue Vera Bradley luggage for a return flight to Washington. 

Weeks later, on Oct. 9, Brinton was spotted with the Vera Bradley roller suitcase on surveillance footage at Dulles International Airport, just outside the nation’s capital, as he returned from Europe, according to the complaint.  

The Energy Department official’s travel destination in Europe isn’t clear, but it’s possible that Brinton attended an American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference on environmental remediation and radioactive waste management held Oct. 4 to 6 in Stuttgart, Germany. 

The woman whose luggage was stolen was shown a photo of the suitcase taken from Washington Dulles Airport surveillance footage. She confirmed to police at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport that it was her suitcase, according to court documents. 

Investigators called Brinton on Oct. 9 and asked him whether he took anything from the Minneapolis airport that didn’t belong to him. 

“Not that I know of,” Brinton replied, according to the complaint. 

Brinton later admitted to taking the wrong bag, but said that he didn’t have the clothes and other contents that the woman said were in the suitcase. 

“That was my clothes when I opened the bag,” the Energy Department official said, according to the complaint.

Brinton confirmed that he still had the bag. 

Two hours later, Brinton called investigators and apologized for not being “completely honest.” He admitted to taking the Vera Bradley bag and said he was tired at the time and thought it was his. 

Brinton told investigators that when he opened the bag and realized it wasn’t his, he got nervous and didn’t know what to do, according to the complaint. 

So, Brinton said, he left the clothes from the bag inside drawers in his Saint Paul hotel room. He admitted to checking the bag at the airport Sept. 18 for his return flight to Washington. 

When asked why he took the bag with him Sept. 18, Brinton said it would be “weirder” to leave a bag in the hotel room than the clothes, according to the complaint. 

On Oct. 9,  investigators told Brinton how to return the bag to Delta Air Lines at Reagan National Airport to ensure that it got back to the woman who reported it missing, the complaint says. 

6. How Has Media Covered Brinton?

Much of the media coverage so far has betrayed a blissful unawareness of Brinton’s alleged crime. 

On Nov. 3, which was likely after the Energy Department placed Brinton on a leave of absence, NBC News reported that a conservative group had named Brinton in what it called “anti-trans misinformation” before the Nov. 8 midterm elections. 

Yahoo News ran a positive feature story on Brinton on Oct. 26, one day before the formal criminal charges were filed against him. 

In the article, Brinton is quoted as saying:

I can’t change my identity more than anyone can change intrinsic parts about themselves, but I can change my openness. And so I am given the opportunity to serve my country as I am, and that’s a really important aspect of my work—because I work on nuclear waste management, where transparency and honesty and trust building are so critical. So if I can’t be myself, it’s really hard to build those relationships. I’m proud to say that, yes, I get to be the first openly gender-fluid person in this type of government service, but I won’t be the last.

The Yahoo News article explained that Brinton, having gone through “conversion therapy ,” a technique used for children who identify as gay. Brinton became an activist to have the practice banned, the article said. 

E&E News, a trade publication owned by Politico that covers energy and the environment, ran a mostly positive story about Brinton on Oct. 13, which was before he was charged but after the theft investigation had begun.

“Beyond the work, Brinton—who uses they/them pronouns—is one of the first openly gender-fluid individuals in federal government leadership,” E&E News wrote. 

The Daily Signal sought comment from NBC News, Yahoo News, and E&E News on whether they were aware of the investigation at the time they published their stories on Brinton, and whether they planned to update the stories. 

NBC News and Yahoo did not respond by publication time. 

E&E News, however, published an updated piece Tuesday about the charges against Brinton.

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state. 

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Sen. Mike Lee Outlines How Respect for Marriage Act Will Affect People of Faith

This is a lightly edited transcript of remarks Sen. Mike Lee delivered before his amendment to the so-called Respect for Marriage Act was voted on. That amendment failed in a 48-49 vote Tuesday. Shortly after, the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act.

Madame President, today, as popular winds blow against the man and woman of faith, we should look to the Constitution and remember that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. We do a disservice to all Americans if we elevate the rights of one group at the expense of another.

On the one hand, there’s no existing threat to same-sex marriage. It is and will remain legal nationwide regardless of the outcome of this legislation before us, the Respect for Marriage Act.

On the other hand, we have current, real, sustained ongoing assaults on religious freedom. How we proceed today will do nothing to the status quo of same-sex marriage in this country. It’s legal and will remain legal regardless of the outcome of this legislation.

It will, however, if enacted, have profound consequences for people of faith.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, proponents of this legislation have conjured up a series of hypothetical scenarios resulting in an imagined threat to the ability of same-sex couples to marry and enjoy the privileges of marriage. The rhetorical slippery slope goes something like this. First, they claim that some unknown, unnamed state is on the verge of passing an unknown, yet to be proposed or imagined law prohibiting same-sex marriage. Next, they imagine that federal district courts will uphold this hypothetical state law despite the crystal clear direction within the Dobbs and Obergefell opinions from the Supreme Court. Should that adventure of unlikely hypotheticals transpire, they envision a case making its way all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States.

All of this, despite the lack of political will anywhere in the United States to prohibit same-sex marriage. Should that happen, proponents of this bill contend that there is a non-zero chance that one justice could decide to analyze the right to marry, not through the prism of substantive due process, as it has been since Obergefell was decided in 2015, but rather through the lens of the 14th Amendment’s privileges or immunities clause.

Proponents of the bill cite a single line within Justice [Clarence] Thomas’s concurring opinion and suggests that one justice could effectively destroy legal recognition of same-sex marriage, not just prospectively, but undoing currently legal same-sex marriage.

Now, this, Madame President, is a complete fantasy.

I’m not aware of a single state in the United States threatening to pass any law infringing the ability of any same-sex couples to marry or enjoy privileges associated with marriage, nor am I aware of a single state threatening to invalidate, within their borders, marriages entered into in other states, nor is it at all clear that Justice Thomas himself was suggesting that Obergefell be overturned.

He was suggesting that it be analyzed, like all substantive due process, jurisprudence, to figure out whether there might be another provision of the Constitution under which it might be more appropriate. They were attributing to him statements he didn’t make, they were attributing to him analysis he didn’t even undertake in that one statement regarding the doctrine of stare decisis, and then they were attributing to state’s intentions they do not have and have not expressed.

My colleagues have yet to offer even a single example of a same-sex marriage threatened by any current or pending state legislation, not one, not a single one, and they intentionally misinterpret Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs and claim that the sky is falling, but it’s just not happening.

Unfortunately, we are aware of case after case where individuals, charities, small businesses, religious schools, and religious institutions are being hauled into courts to defend themselves for living out their faith. These people are not committing hate crimes against their neighbors. No, they’re not abusing peers for their personal choices either. No, they’re being hauled into courts across this country for serving the poor, the needy, and the refugee in compliance with their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

In Texas, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is currently being sued for operating in accordance with Catholic beliefs regarding marriage while providing foster homes for unaccompanied minor children. Now, proponents of this bill claim that these charities will be free to continue to operate. However, in that case, the question is whether, because the Conference of Catholic Bishops receives federal funding to help with its work, it might be operating under color of law.

If accepting grants and licenses from the government makes you an actor under color of law, then many of our religious charities and schools will be threatened by this legislation, which relies on that un-narrowed, undefined phrase. Either the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops can cease operating according to its religious tenets or abandon its God-given mission to care for the refugee.

In at least three other cases, religious childcare service agencies deemed to be acting under color of law are being shut out of foster care and adoption. These religious ministries can either abandon and cease to act according to their convictions, their religious convictions about marriage, or they can abandon the orphan. This nation and our orphans rely on these charities.

We cannot and must not force that decision on them. That isn’t who we are. From the very moment of our founding, we’ve been a nation that has welcomed people of all beliefs and of no belief at all.

In recent years, the Obama administration, through the U.S. Department of Education, compiled a so-called shame list outlining more than 200 faith-based colleges and universities seeking religious exemptions from Title IX guidance on transgender and sex discrimination. It is highly likely that these organizations could also risk losing their 501c3 status.

Madame President, considering that we’re in the process of hiring 87,000 new agents within the Internal Revenue Service, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some of these new IRS agents will be deployed specifically to review the tax-exempt status of some of these traditionally exempt religious schools. These colleges and universities can either cease operating according to their religious convictions or run the risk of losing their ability to provide quality education at reduced prices. We may well find that they will not be able to do both and that would be a tragedy.

Dr. Andrew Fox created a chaplaincy program at the Austin Fire Department, where he served as the lead chaplain in a volunteer capacity for eight years, earning the trust and respect of local firefighters. In a personal blog, nothing connected to his work, just a personal blog, Dr. Fox shared his religious views, religious views specifically regarding marriage. City officials demanded he recant his statements and apologize for the harm that his blog post allegedly caused. He explained that he intended only to foster discussion and not cause offense and he apologized if anyone was offended. His apology apparently wasn’t enough for city officials, who demanded total compliance with their preferred views on marriage, views that didn’t embrace his own religious beliefs. They forced Dr. Fox to hand in his uniform. He could keep his job or his beliefs, but not both.

We should not be surprised by the current state of affairs. After all, it was abundantly clear during the Obergefell oral argument before the Supreme Court that this threat to religious nonprofits would be forthcoming. The prescient exchange between Justice [Samuel] Alito and then Solicitor General Donald Verrilli forecasted the present hostility and the corresponding threats to religious organizations.

Justice Alito asked whether, should states be required to recognize same-sex marriages, religious universities could lose their tax-exempt status. His response, the response from Solicitor General Verrilli was chilling. He said, quote, “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It’s going to be an issue.”…

It is an issue today. And under this legislation, it will only get worse tomorrow, unless we take affirmative steps to prevent that from happening.

And we have the opportunity to do so here and we shouldn’t miss it. Unlike the hypothetical, but entirely non-existent marriages being threatened or discriminated against, these religious organizations are currently, right now, in court fighting for their God-given and constitutionally-protected rights to live and operate according to their beliefs and conscience.

They’re being targeted and harassed by those who would force them to abandon their convictions and embrace the convictions preferred by the government.

Sadly, the hostages at risk in this standoff are those who have benefited from the charitable work of these institutions: the poor, the hungry, the refugee, the student, and the orphan. Instead of resolving the concern posed by Justice Alito, this legislation will put the weighty thumb of government on the scale against religious organizations and individuals. Now, they say, “Don’t worry. You can still believe as you wish, but if, in living out your faith, you offend the views sanctioned by the government, you will suffer the consequences.”

What do we get for this heavy sacrifice of religious freedom? Are we alleviating the suffering of same-sex families about to be destroyed by government interference? No.

As I’ve said, we haven’t heard of even one potential threat to same-sex marriage, not one. The only outcome we can expect from this legislation is for religious individuals, businesses, and institutions to spend more time and more money defending their God-given rights in court.

In our pluralistic society, we must be willing to compromise and adapt so that we might live peaceably with one another. In that spirit of compromise, let us ensure that we’re protecting families, both traditional and same-sex families, and that we are protecting the right to believe as we wish and live out those beliefs without government interference. I believe we can do both. In fact, I know we can do both.

Now, the Collins-Baldwin Amendment takes a step in the right direction and I’m grateful for that. Rabbis, imams and pastors should never be forced to perform a marriage contrary to their beliefs, but religious liberty is so much more than marriage and it entails so much more than what might go on within the four walls of a mosque, a synagogue, or a church. It certainly entails and must include the ability of people to practice their faith not only at church, but at home and in the public square.

In the hope that we can come to a place where we respect each other, I have offered an amendment to this legislation that would explicitly minimize the threats to these religious organizations and individuals. I’m at the table. I’m willing to compromise and, in the spirit of compromise, I’ve publicly stated, and I reiterate here again today, that I will support the legislation if my amendment is adopted.

My amendment simply prohibits the federal government from discriminating against schools, businesses, and organizations based on their religious beliefs about same-sex marriage. That’s all it does. It’s very simple and I’m grateful that we’re going to have the chance to vote on it later today.

I’m also grateful to the work of my friend and colleague, Sen. Dan Sullivan from Alaska, who, working together with several of my other Republican colleagues, helped secure and schedule this vote. I’m grateful to him for that effort.

My amendment prevents the Internal Revenue Service, among other things, from revoking the tax-exempt status of these charities and organizations simply because they act according to their beliefs about the divine purpose of marriage.

It prevents the Department of Education from targeting schools with honor codes based on the fact that they’ve got provisions in their honor codes based on religious beliefs. It protects individuals from being denied business licenses or grants or other statuses based on their views about marriage. It protects Americans who wish to act according to their religious beliefs from being forced to abandon their God-given mandates to love, serve, and care for the poor, the orphan, and the refugee. If we allow the government to threaten their ability to do so, then the religious liberty of every American is in peril.

That’s why I would ask those who have doubts about this to reconsider doubts about my amendment. If they object to my amendment and are inclined to vote against it based on the fact that they regard it as unnecessary, then why not pass it?

This is a legitimate concern that some may argue this, as I’ve been told by many of the bill’s sponsors, that my amendment is unnecessary because, according to them, the Collins substitute amendment contains protections that already accommodate this concern.

Now, the Collins substitute amendment does, in fact, contain some protections. I’m grateful that those were included and that is a meaningful step in the right direction. I must point out, however, that it doesn’t do what my amendment does and, therefore, doesn’t do what many of its proponents are claiming. Nowhere in that legislation is a statement prohibiting the federal government from taking adverse action against an individual or an entity based on a sincere religious belief about same-sex marriage, whether that religious belief is one that embraces or does not embrace same-sex marriage.

It does not do that. It instead says that nothing in this act shall be construed to alter or deny any status or benefit of any group. Those are two very different things. That language does not do what my amendment does. You see, the threat is not and never was based on what the act itself would do. The act doesn’t purport to itself deny or alter any status or benefit or right. And so by taking that away, they’re paying lip service to the need for my amendment, but they’re not actually addressing it.

The threat has been present, at least since Obergefell itself was decided, for the reasons that prompted Justice Alito to ask then Solicitor General Verrilli a question about it and the same reasons that prompted Solicitor General Verrilli to acknowledge that it was going to be an issue. Those same reasons exist today. They don’t go away because of this legislation. If anything, they’re enhanced. The risk is enhanced as a result of this legislation.

That’s why this is the perfect opportunity. It is the right opportunity. It may well be the only opportunity to make sure that, as we’re undertaking a legislative effort to codify rights for one group of Americans, we don’t do so in a particularly un-American way—that is enhance the rights of some at the expense of others. That’s not how we roll. That’s not how we do things in this country. We can protect both of these interests at the same time, just as we can walk and chew gum.

And so for those who would say the Lee amendment isn’t necessary because the Collins amendment already takes care of it, that’s just not true. And even if it were true, why not accept the Lee amendment, anyway? Which begs the question, why wouldn’t anyone want to deny the federal government the authority to retaliate against individuals, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs? Think about that for a minute. Why wouldn’t they want to deny that very power from a government that may wield it in a way that is categorically abusive?

For my Republican friends, who are sympathetic to the need for my amendment and are going to support it, I’d ask that, if they support it and if the amendment fails, that you not support the underlying bill because, if you support my amendment, hopefully, presumably, that means because you agree that it does something, that it does something necessary. It certainly doesn’t counteract, contradict, or undermine the stated purpose of this bill in any way. So if you believe that it’s necessary and you’re going to vote for it, if it fails, you should oppose passage of this bill unless or until the Lee amendment is adopted. We could get this done.

I understand that it’s not going to happen as long as there are at least 10 Republicans willing to join with every Democrat in order to support this legislation, but if even three of the 12 Republicans considering support for this legislation in the end, if even three of them supporting my amendment would decide not to support the bill unless or until the Lee amendment was added, I’m confident, indeed, I am certain that it could and would ultimately be adopted.

As I said, Madame President, we must be willing to compromise to protect the interests of all. I urge my colleagues to support my amendment, which would assure that all Americans would have certain rights and that their religious beliefs and their moral convictions will be explicitly protected and provide some comfort that Congress is not purposely passing laws that restrict the free exercise of religion. Thank you, Madame President.

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United States Senate Passes Radical Respect for Marriage Act

The United States Senate has passed the Respect for Marriage Act without a vital amendment that conservatives had pushed to protect religious freedom.

The bill’s supporters have claimed that the much-discussed legislation protects religious liberty. But opponents of the Respect for Marriage Act, including religious institutions like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, desperately warned ahead of the vote that it “puts a giant target on people of faith.”

The legislation repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, obliges those “acting under color of state law” to recognize same-sex marriages, and orders the federal government to recognize marriages that are deemed valid by one or more states.

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee had repeatedly raised concerns about the contents of the Respect for Marriage Act , urging Democrats and Republicans to come to an agreement on his amendment creating a strict policy that the federal government can’t discriminate on either viewpoint of marriage, whether same-sex or traditional.

The senator’s amendment failed, 48-49, after a vote Tuesday. The amendment had a 6-vote affirmative threshold.

Twelve Republican lawmakers had previously voted for advancing the Respect for Marriage Act : Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana. 

On Tuesday, all of these senators voted for Lee’s amendment except Collins. Democrat West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin also voted for the Lee amendment. Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford’s and Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s amendments similarly failed, both 45-52.

In a letter sent last week directed at the 12 GOP senators who voted for the legislation, Lee emphasized  that his amendment  would “ensure that federal bureaucrats do not take discriminatory actions against individuals, organizations, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage by prohibiting the denial or revocation of tax exempt status, licenses, contracts, benefits, etc.”

“It would affirm that individuals still have the right to act according to their faith and deepest convictions even outside of their church or home,” the senator added, urging the senators to oppose cloture on the bill unless his amendment is added.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) leaves the Senate floor after voting yes on a procedural vote on federal legislation protecting same-sex marriages, at the U.S. Capitol on November 16, 2022 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“The free exercise of religion is absolutely essential to the health of our Republic,” Lee wrote in his letter, which was signed by 20 of his Republican colleagues and first published by The Daily Signal. “We must have the courage to protect it.”

Republican Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan confirmed to The Daily Signal on Friday that he supported the Lankford and Lee amendments and “has been working hard to ensure that these amendments get votes on the Senate floor.”

Republican Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis similarly shared  over the weekend that she would support the Lee amendment, though she did not say whether she would insist on the amendment’s adoption as a condition for supporting cloture on the legislation.

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Balenciaga Scandal Highlights Rampant Sexualization of Children and Larger Porn Issue in America, Expert Says

Calls to cancel Balenciaga continue following the company releasing an ad campaign featuring children holding a teddy bear handbag wearing a bondage harness.  

The images are proof we are in a “downward spiral” when it comes to the sexual exploitation of children, Lisa Thompson, vice president of research for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation , told The Daily Signal during a phone interview Tuesday.  

Balenciaga, a luxury fashion line, is being criticized for the sexual nature of the ads and concerns over the ads promoting child pornography and the sexualization of children.  

“Companies that engage in this kind of advertising need to be held accountable,” Thompson said.  

The fashion company has also come under harsh criticism for an ad promoting a handbag that ranges in price from $3,450 to $4,000. The ad showcased the bag tossed on an office desk laying on top of papers, including what appears to be a 2008 Supreme Court ruling on a child pornography case.  

Balenciaga has removed all the controversial ads from all its platforms and issued an apology.  

“We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in our narrative,” the company said on Instagram . “The two separate ad campaigns in question reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility,” Balenciaga said.  

Unfortunately, Thompson says the ads are representative of an ongoing issue within culture that normalizes pornographic images.  

“Those who are expressing outrage, I think are doing so very rightly,” Thompson said, but added that this “isn’t the first time we’ve had situations like this where children are being hypersexualized.”  

Britney Spears was a minor, just 17, when Rolling Stone featured her on a 1999 cover of its magazine lying in bed with an open shirt to show her bra and holding a Teletubby. Thompson says French Vogue came under criticism in 2011 when it featured child models in sexualized poses.  

Despite criticism, backlash, and negative media attention over instances of sexualizing children, “it doesn’t stop,” Thompson said.  

Why?  

“The problem is there continue to be people who desire that content and people are willing and ready to consume it, and I think that’s a product of our pornified culture,” she said, adding that use of adult pornography can lead to the use of child porn. 

“We have countless numbers of pornography consumers, and they’re going to get desensitized to the mainstream content and they’re going to be looking for something new, something more exciting, and for a certain percentage of that population, it’s going to be kids.”

The Recovery Village, an addiction rehabilitation center, reports that 40 million American adults regularly visit internet pornography websites.  

It is the “mainstreaming of adult pornography that has largely led us to where we are,” Thompson said, adding that an additional issue today is children are becoming “their own exploiters.”  

The National Center on National Exploitation reports that “more than half of children in the U.S. now [own] smartphones by age 11.”  

Youths access to the internet has not only led to children being exposed to porn, but to kids “exchanging nude pictures of themselves,” Thompson said.  

At this moment in history, “the situation for children I think is absolutely dire,” Thompson said, adding that many people are working hard to stop the sexual exploitation of children, but “the public outcry is still not enough.”  

The one positive thing about the Balenciaga ad campaign, Thompson said, is that “it’s shining light on the horrible problem we have with child sexual abuse material and the mainstreaming of the sexualization of children.”  

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At DC Candlelight Vigil, Chinese Emigres Express Fears for Relatives Under COVID Lockdowns Back Home

A candlelight vigil was held Monday night at George Washington University’s Kogan Plaza in Washington, D.C., to honor the victims of the China’s coercive “zero-COVID” policy.

An apartment building fire on Nov. 24 killed at least 10 people and injured at least nine others, ultimately triggering days of both national and global protests against the communist regime in Beijing.

Physical barriers that were built “as part of pandemic-control efforts” and abandoned cars belonging to people in quarantine were said to have prevented fire engines from reaching the apartment building, The Hill reported .

One attendee at Monday’s vigil told The Daily Signal his family is under lockdown in China.

“My other families, they’re all back in China. They’re in Benxi City in northeast China,” said Chen, who did not provide his full name. “All of them have just been placed under lockdown, as of [Sunday].”

Chen added:

If anybody gets a positive [COVID] testing, then the entire apartment complex are under lockdown. I’m just really worried. I don’t know if they can get enough food. I don’t know if they will have running water.

It’s really concerning.

Another attendee, Yen, who did not provide his full name, said he was born and raised in Shanghai, and spoke about standing up and supporting his friends and family who are in China.

“Obviously, this is my hometown, and when you see people fighting for freedom, fighting for a better future in your own hometown, you have to stand up and support them,” Yen said.

“We just have to show not only our family, our friends back home, but the world that nobody … nobody messes with Shanghai. You know, we’re the strongest city in China,” he said.

“On WeChat, I see a lot of people who are normally apolitical or even supportive of the government come out and turn against it, or I guess, in a way,” Yen said. WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app.

“You don’t need foreign influences to tell you that you’re starving. You don’t need foreign influences to persuade you to come out on the street for that,” he added. “I’m really proud of my fellow Shanghainese citizens and … I hope Shanghai stays strong, and yeah, just overall, very happy to see these developments.”

Annabelle, who was interviewed with Yen and also did not provide her full name, said her dad’s family is still in China, as are her grandparents, who she said are “currently under lockdown, too.”

Another attendee, named Tahir Imin, said that he is from Urumqi, China, where the fatal fire occurred, and that his ex-wife and daughter still live there.

“My mom and my two brothers and other members were sentenced to up to 10 and 15 years in the prison just because they are my family, because I am speaking about the human rights to the media,” he said. “So, they were arrested and sentenced to 10 and 15 years.”

He added:

If anyone back home [communicates] with the people overseas, they might be considered as a spy for foreign agents, so their lives would be in danger.

So, I just hope people would stand up, say the truth, and try to do anything [to] hold China accountable.

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3 Ways Chinese Nuclear Buildup Threatens US National Security Interests

The head of the U.S. Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard, recently alerted the world that when it comes to deterrence against China, “the ship is slowly sinking.”

That warning came on the heels of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for “a strong system of strategic deterrence ,” a likely reference to Beijing’s nuclear arsenal, at the recent 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress.

Richard’s and Xi’s comments confirm what we have been learning about China’s buildup of its nuclear forces that have the potential to match—or even overtake—those of the United States.

Historically, China has maintained a very small arsenal of nuclear weapons as part of a “minimum deterrence” strategy. In 2010, it had only about 50 nuclear missiles .

But not today.

Satellite imagery recently revealed that China is building more than 300 new missile silos that, if filled, would place its land-based nuclear force on track to exceed that of the U.S. The Pentagon predicts China will grow its nuclear weapons stockpile to 1,000 by the end of the decade , if not sooner. And it would be unwise to assume Beijing would stop there.

China is also developing advanced capabilities like a fractional orbital bombardment system that would enable a nuclear missile to orbit the globe before flying to its target on a hypersonic trajectory. Compared to traditional ballistic missiles, such a system would be difficult for the U.S. to detect and track.

Beijing’s nukes aren’t limited to strategic systems to threaten the homeland. Its medium- and intermediate-range missiles are also nuclear-capable and can threaten U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific as well as our South Korean and Japanese allies. By comparison, the U.S. has no nuclear weapons based in the region.

China’s nuclear expansion presents at least three serious implications for U.S. strategy and security:

  • First, a stronger nuclear force will allow China to take greater risks in its aggression. Take the scenario of a Chinese military effort to unify with Taiwan , for example.

Backed by nuclear missiles that can strike targets both in the region and on the U.S. homeland, China can become more confident in its ability to wage a war if it thinks its nuclear “backstop” provides an advantage.

Beijing could also learn a lesson from Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons should the U.S. come to Taiwan’s defense, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has been doing since starting his war.

  • Second, China may become more tempted to actually use nuclear weapons. If Beijing thinks it has an advantage in its nuclear forces and doubts that the United States would respond to a nuclear strike, it is likelier to see nuclear weapons as a viable way to accomplish its objectives.

For example, given China’s advantage in nuclear weapons based in the Indo-Pacific, Beijing could gamble that the U.S. would back down rather than respond to a limited nuclear strike.  

China’s advanced technologies, such as the fractional orbital bombardment system weapon, would also be suitable for a nuclear first strike because it can avoid U.S. early-warning systems until late in its flight. If the U.S. can’t see an incoming missile, a surprise attack that cripples the U.S.’s ability to respond becomes more feasible.

  • Third, China’s growing nuclear forces could hinder the credibility of U.S. commitments to extend our nuclear umbrella over our allies. As China improves its ability to threaten the U.S., it could perceive that the United States would be less willing to come to the defense of an ally in the region—to trade Los Angeles for Taipei, Seoul, or Tokyo.

And if our allies think the U.S. wouldn’t come to their defense, they might resort to developing nuclear weapons of their own. Such an outcome would damage U.S. commitments to nonproliferation and risk greater instability in the region.

To avoid the worst of these outcomes, the United States needs to prioritize the strengthening of its own nuclear forces. That effort entails both continuing to modernize existing capabilities while enhancing the number and types of U.S. nuclear capabilities required to address the growing Chinese threat.

As nuclear weapons pose the only existential threat to the United States, we must be up to the challenge.

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How I Turned My Left-leaning College Experience to My Benefit

Decades ago, KGB spy Yuri Bezmenov defected to America and exposed a four-step plan the Soviets engineered to bring down the United States: demoralization, destabilization, crisis, and normalization. Demoralization was the first and most critical step, and it involved infiltrating the institutions upon which our society was built.

Although the Soviet Union is long gone, demoralization is still occurring in the United States, but it’s coming from within, especially from our academic institutions . I know this firsthand because I almost became another demoralized, nihilistic American youth until I learned to turn my left-leaning college experience to my benefit. 

I attended the University of Colorado Boulder—in a place so far ideologically left that Coloradans jokingly refer to the town as “The People’s Republic of Boulder.” On the surface, it looked like a typical college campus with sororities, fraternities, and students busily rushing around campus trying to get to their destinations. Students had that adventurous attitude that comes with being away from home for the first time.

However, I was able to quickly pick up on the subliminal messaging in my introductory classes intended to push students toward the left. And the messaging became increasingly more blatant and extreme as my undergraduate career progressed.

For example, my Sociology 101 professor delivered his lectures as if he were matter-of-factly lecturing on various theories, thinkers, and ideas of the field, but he skillfully and ever so cunningly was steering 400 students to think as Marx did.

I specifically remember how he got almost the entire class to agree with his proposition that employees and employers are inherently in conflict with each other because while one group is interested in trying to increase its compensation, the other is actively attempting to lower it. Of course, there was absolutely no mention of thinkers such as Dr. Thomas Sowell who thoroughly debunked that Marxist viewpoint.

What was most alarming to me as a 19-year-old college student was just how unthinkingly my peers accepted the professor’s argumentation without much, if any, challenge.

By the time I became a senior in college , I witnessed a professor declare to the class his allegiance to Foucauldian ideology (i.e., an oppressor versus oppressed worldview expressed by power dynamics) by stating, “I’m a Michel Foucault fanboy.” When this professor suggested that being white automatically made a person a racist, my classmates simply nodded their heads, accepting such nonsensical statements as truth.

What solidified all this indoctrination in such young impressionable minds was when my fellow students were generously rewarded with high scores for their repetition and slow acceptance of the leftist worldview. This is how the process of demoralizing thousands of young people at just one of the many “places of higher learning” throughout our nation takes place.  

With the nonstop bombardment of woke messaging coming at college students, how can they possibly hope to maintain the will to keep pursuing their degrees, let alone keep their sanity?

The answer lies within a human being’s power of interpretation. According to the ancient stoics, the only things in the world that we have total control over are our own actions, our reactions to outside stimuli, and the way we interpret our experiences. This wisdom is directly applicable to—and necessary for—the survival and thriving of an open-minded college student. 

Although I had a choice to view my college experience as a dreadful slog through the thick mire of extreme leftist ideology with its divisive messaging, I decided to treat this experience as an opportunity to learn as much as I could about what makes people so possessed with such a negative worldview. In other words, I treated my college years as an observational research project.

I attended each class with this mindset, and, in a very short time, I was able to make my classes significantly more interesting—all because of how I chose to think about them.

This is what my advice is to students sitting in a classroom right now, trying to keep their eyes open because they’re so bored of being on the receiving end of incessant propaganda: Remain critically engaged without becoming sentimental about well-crafted messaging directed to arouse feelings of guilt or inadequacy. Also, view your experience as an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the process of demoralization works in practice.

For those who reject this extreme ideology because of its destructive nature that divides people into “us versus them” categories, treat this as an opportunity to learn about how and what your ideological opponents think and what their plans for the future are.

In other words, do what the ancient Chinese warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu would do: The more you look at it from their perspective, the more you are preparing yourself to effectively counter your opposition—and the better you are preparing yourself to win on the ideological battlefield.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation. 

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In Video, Border Patrol Warns Illegal Migrants: ‘This Journey Is Deadly’

Rows of unmarked graves are visible behind Chief Border Patrol Agent Jason Owens as he makes a plea to anyone seeking to cross the southern border to come to America illegally.  

“Don’t risk it,” Owens says in a short video with Spanish subtitles posted on the Facebook page of the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector over the weekend. “This journey is deadly, it’s dangerous, it can cost you your life.”  

Owens oversees the Del Rio sector, a stretch of 53,063 square miles in Texas, including 47 counties and 245 miles along the Rio Grande. It is one of nine such Border Patrol sectors adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border.  

The men, women, and children who cross illegally into the Del Rio sector often do so by swimming or wading across the Rio Grande .    

In fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30, the men and women of the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector rescued 3,000 individuals who put their lives at risk to enter America unlawfully, Owens says in the video.

Tragically, at least 260 were “people we couldn’t save,” the sector chief says.  

“To anybody that’s considering making this dangerous journey, it’s not just us that this impacts,” Owens says in the video, which is just over 2 minutes long. “It’s your families and it’s your loved ones, if we don’t get to you in time.” 

“What you see behind me right now are just a few of the grave markers of the individuals we weren’t able to save, and more than that, we weren’t able to identify,” he says, adding that some of the unidentifiable lives lost in his sector include baby girls and boys.  

Owens describes fiscal 2022 as a “crazy year,” with more than 470,000 illegal immigrants apprehended by the Border Patrol in the Del Rio sector alone, and 160,000 illegal aliens or “gotaways” who succeeded in evading agents.  

The Border Patrol encountered a total of 2,005,026 illegal aliens between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022, the first full fiscal year of Joe Biden’s presidency, a new record and nearly half a million more than the previous fiscal year.   

So far in fiscal 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports 42,376 encounters with illegal aliens in the Del Rio sector. Within the first three weeks, Border Patrol agents in the Del Rio sector already had “encountered subjects from over 35 different countries,” according to the sector’s Facebook page .  

Customs and Border Protection only publicly report the number of encounters with illegal immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Those from all other nations are grouped as “other.”

America is dealing with the “worst border crisis in U.S. history,” Lora Ries, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center, wrote in an op-ed published Nov. 22 by the national security website 19FortyFive. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)  

Ries argues that the next Congress should take several actions to secure America’s southern border , including budgeting funds to complete the border wall, reinstating the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, and working to “eliminate fraudulent asylum claims.”  

“The Biden border crisis has gone on long enough,” Reis writes. “It has enriched the drug cartels, while destroying countless American lives in communities across our country. Illegal aliens themselves are dying in record numbers making the journey. It’s time for Congress to do its job and secure our border.” 

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DeSantis Blasts Apple in Dispute Over Elon Musk, Twitter

Elon Musk says Twitter may now be removed from the Apple App Store, prompting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to defend the social media company.

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” Musk, the billionaire owner of Twitter and Tesla, tweeted Monday. “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why. Who else has Apple censored?”

DeSantis said at a news conference that Apple may need to be investigated by Congress.

“When you also hear reports that Apple is threatening to remove Twitter from the app store because Elon Musk is actually opening it up for free speech and is restoring a lot of accounts that were unfairly and illegitimately suspended for putting out accurate information about COVID, that’s like one of the main things being reinstated,” DeSantis said.

“So many of things these experts were wrong about, and you had people on Twitter that were calling that out, and the old regime at Twitter, their response was to just try to suffocate the dissent, and Elon Musk knows that’s not a winning formula so he is providing free speech.”

DeSantis argued that if Apple went through with the alleged threat, it would be a monopolistic abuse of power.

“So if Apple responds to that by nuking them from the App Store, I think that would be a huge, huge mistake, and it would be a really raw exercise of monopolistic power that I think would merit a response from the United States Congress,” DeSantis said. “So don’t be a vassal of the [Chinese Communist Party] on one hand, and then use your power in the United States on the other to try to suffocate Americans and try to suppress their right to express themselves.”

Musk fired off a string of tweets about Apple Monday.

“Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store?” he said.

Musk also posted a poll asking whether “Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.” More than 2 million users responded with about 85% choosing “yes.”

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Twitter has become a daily source of breaking news with Musk’s controversial comments and a string of policy changes from the social media giant. Musk said in a recent tweet that Twitter has hit all-time high usage since he took over, though many advertisers have begun distancing themselves from the platform.

Musk hasn’t released data to back up the record user claim, but the site has been more tumultuous and a source of constant media coverage since he took over leadership of the company.

One of those controversial decisions was Musk reinstating former President Donald Trump to the site. Trump was removed after the Jan. 6, 2021, riots.

Musk tweeted a poll to decide whether Trump should be reinstated, with 51.8% saying yes to Musk’s question after 15,085,458 votes.

Twitter has also reinstated other users like the satire site The Babylon Bee, Kanye West, and liberal comedian Kathy Griffin.

A common criticism of Twitter has been inappropriate content toward certain groups as well as outright false information.

“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” Musk tweeted. “Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of internet.”

For his part, Musk claims the fight over Twitter is much bigger than just his company.

“This is a battle for the future of civilization,” he said. “If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.”

Originally published by The Center Square

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