This is the second in a three-part series on the movement for religious freedom in the U.S. legal system today. Check out the first part about how Christians who refuse to take a COVID-19 vaccine face “medical death row” here.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Ryan Bangert, senior vice president at the religious freedom law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, breaks down a troubling phenomenon he calls the “rise of global censorship.”

“All across the world, we’re seeing government become ever more bold in attempting to directly censor the speech and the messages being communicated by citizens,” Bangert tells “The Daily Signal Podcast” in an interview recorded at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in February.

He mentions the case of Päivi Räsänen, a Christian member of Finland’s parliament who tweeted her objection to her church’s involvement in an LGBTQ parade. For that, prosecutors charged her for “hate speech.” Even though courts repeatedly clear Räsänen of the charges, prosecutors keep appealing the case to higher courts.

He also references Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, director of the U.K. March for Life, who got arrested in the United Kingdom for the crime of silently praying—in her head—outside an abortion clinic.

“That case is remarkable because she was punished not for what she said, but for what she thought,” Bangert notes. “So, she was standing silently on a sidewalk outside of an abortion clinic saying nothing, just in a prayerful posture, and she was approached by law enforcement officers who said, ‘What are you thinking?’ Literally, ‘What are you thinking? Are you praying in your mind?'”

The lawyer also addresses laws across the world that try “to restrict what talk therapists can say” if it conflicts with gender ideology.

ADF represented Brian Tingley, a therapist in Washington state who challenged a law that would have “prohibited him from engaging in talk therapy to assist minors experiencing gender dysphoria to reconcile with their biological sex,” Bangert recalls. “Of course, Washington says it’s no problem if you want to do talk therapy to encourage them into further gender dysphoria.”

The lawyer claims the law unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of viewpoint. Yet the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected ADF’s lawsuit on the grounds that the law didn’t affect Tingley’s free speech, but the practice of medicine.

That ruling contradicted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Florida, however. The 11th Circuit struck down a law in the city of Boca Raton, Florida, that also forbade therapy to resolve unwanted gender dysphoria while allowing therapy to encourage further gender dysphoria.

The Supreme Court rejected the Tingley case, as it does the vast majority of cases. Yet it often considers cases in which appeals courts contradict each other, as they did on this issue. ADF is currently representing a client in Colorado, and Bangert said he hopes that case or a similar one will make it to the Supreme Court.

“This is a clear violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition on government viewpoint-based distinctions on speech,” the lawyer says. He notes that the Supreme Court case 303 Creative v. Elenis (2023) “provides a great road map” on this issue, because the high court ruled that Colorado could not force a graphic designer to “speak messages through her artistic work—in her case, website design—that conflicted with her faith.”

Bangert also brings up the case National Rifle Association v. Vullo, where ADF finds itself on the same side as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Maria Vullo, then superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services, allegedly leveraged her regulatory power over banks and insurance companies to coerce them into denying basic financial services to the NRA and “other gun promotion” groups.

“This is a great example of how the government can violate citizens’ First Amendment rights by pressuring other private citizens to engage in activities that government otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to do,” Bangert explains. He notes a similar case, in which individuals and states are suing the federal government for pressuring Big Tech companies to censor speech on COVID-19 that did not fit the government’s messaging.

The religious freedom lawyer also addressed the worrisome trend of debanking, where financial service providers appear to be denying services based on their disagreements with customers’ viewpoints.

Bangert addressed the Southern Poverty Law Center, a far-left smear factory that has branded ADF an “anti-LGBTQ hate group.”

“We always have the privilege of rebutting their false and malicious attacks on a regular basis,” he said. “They’re not doing it because it’s true. They’re doing it because it advances their ideological and political agenda,” which he described as “directly at odds” with “basic Judeo-Christian values.”

Yet service providers pick up the SPLC’s attacks. “There are a number of companies all across the country that rely on the SPLC’s malicious and false ‘hate group’ list to determine who they’re going to provide service to,” Bangert noted.

“Private businesses are violating the basic civil rights of customers,” he explains.

Bank of America closed the account of Indigenous Advance Ministries, which provides relief to orphans in Uganda. “You couldn’t have a more noble cause than that,” the religious freedom lawyer said.

So, why did Bank of America cut this group off?

“Well, the first answer we got was, we don’t want to serve clients like them anymore. That’s not a very satisfying answer,” Bangert explained. “It was probably the same reason they debanked the [National Committee for Religious Freedom], Ambassador Sam Brownback’s group, and that is because they don’t like their ideology. They don’t like their faith.”

Listen to the full interview below.

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