Forcing use of pronouns is compelled speech, lawyer tells Faith summit

Pastor Russ Rathier speaks as lawyer Tyson Langhofer (left), Mary Eberstadt, and Carrie Sheffield look on.

By Michael Bielawski

At the Restoring Our Faith Summit at the Double Tree Hotel in South Burlington on Tuesday, several leading national voices spoke out for individual rights, liberties, and religious principles including strong nuclear families.

Tyson Langhofer

Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Tyson Langhofer shared some thoughts with VDC on how the First Amendment is meant to protect not just a citizen’s rights concerning free speech, but also that citizens should never be forced to say what they disagree with.

“The Supreme Court has never held up any law which compels somebody to actually speak something different than what they believe and they’ve issued many rulings just in the last five or seven years reaffirming this doctrine that there’s actually additional harm when you are force to speak something that you don’t want to speak,” he said.

Langhofer rose to Vermont fame for his role as the lawyer representing a father and daughter who were each being punished by Randolph Union High School for refusing to comply with having biological males in the female locker rooms in 2022. After a lawsuit by the family, The Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust was forced to pay out a settlement of $125,000 for damages and fees.

Langhofer said, “The government through the schools are imposing these requirements that essentially say you must use somebody’s preferred pronouns or preferred names and what that’s doing is essentially forcing an individual to say something about sex and about gender that they don’t believe.”

Russ Rathier

Pastor Russ Rathier, the Vermont Coordinator for the Vermont Baptist Church of New England. He spoke about how left-leaning leaders in the 1960’s orchestrated a national effort to move young people to Vermont.

“Their whole desire was to move 200,000 disenfranchised youth to a state of 400,000 people, get some communes set up, get residency, start to vote, and within a generation take over the state,” Rathier said. “It worked, didn’t it? It worked, that’s how we got here. It didn’t happen overnight.”

Rathier says that Vermont, despite its political swing to the left, has seen much progress in spreading faith.

“There’s been incredible growth in the Evangelical faith, that is Bible-believing churches,” he said. “A church that will preach the Gospel, not the social gospel, not the political gospel, not the prosperity gospel, but the word of God is on the rise in Vermont.”

He said that from 2010 to 2020 the number of Vermonters identifying as evangelicals grew from 3.6% to 7.2%.

Carrie Sheffield 

Carrie Sheffield is a political columnist and commentator in the Washington, D.C. area. She commented on Virginia’s 2022 gubernatorial race, which saw a former governor sharply sink in the polls after he alleged that parents are too much interfering with education policy.

“He made that infamous very obvious truth from his perspective that he didn’t believe that parents should have any say in what their children learn,” she said. “That did him in. He did in himself.”

She also said, “You are actually not outnumbered … There are more parents than there are teachers. Don’t forget that.”

She noted in recent polling Americans are generally not embracing trans ideology.

“By a 2-to-1, maybe even 3-to-1 margin, Americans do not believe that men should be playing in women’s sports,” she said. “You wouldn’t think that by looking at Twitter, by looking at the media, by looking at corporate America.”

Pat Fagan

Pat Fagan is the founder and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Insitute at The Catholic University of America. He stressed the importance of supporting the family structure with a father and mother in the home and healthy masculinity focused on supporting the wife and children.

Fagan, a native of Ireland, said he only meant for his stay in the United States to be temporary while he advanced his studies. Even in the 1980s, he sensed that something was going wrong in American schools.

“And then I found that the government through the sex education and [other policies] that they had in schools in the 80s was already undermining the family, and actually that led to my staying here,” Fagan said.

Fagan said the founding fathers were strong defenders of personal freedom, but they didn’t anticipate all of the challenges that the institution of nuclear families would face.

“As I analyzed it and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, one of the things that they did not do because I think it was so assumed … how foundational marriage and family is to society. It’s not there in their discourse, and it’s absolutely critical.”

Several more speakers

Other speakers included Meg Hasson who directs the Catholic Women’s Forum and is the co-founder of the Person and Identity Project; Delano Squires who is a Research Fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life; and Rabbi Dr. Air Lamm, 1980’s hip hop music fan and Chief Executive of Bnai Zion, a media company that advocates for Israel and the Jewish people.

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle

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Categories: Religion

5 replies »

  1. The ‘compelled speech doctrine’ is a bit more complicated than reported here. While it stipulates that a ‘government’ or government entity cannot compel speech, a private person or private organization may be able to do so.

    For example, the baker who refused to make a wedding-cake for a gay couple could not be ‘compelled’ to do so. Indirectly then, the baker ‘compelled’ that gay couple to assume the specific characterization exercised by that baker. But the courts allowed that baker this position because other bakers, that would conform to the request of the gay couple, were readily available.

    Thus, a private school, or other private organization, may be able to compel the use of certain pronouns as long as there are available school alternatives for the offended party to choose. But public schools, in districts that do not equally fund private alternatives, therefore, cannot compel certain speech.

    Of course, none of this discussion holds water until it is challenged in the courts. And even then, an activist judge or jurist can interpret that law as they choose… until it’s ruled upon by the SCOTUS.

  2. C.S. Lewis, in the introduction to “Mere Christianity”, made an argument to the effect that communication between two individuals depends on the fact that both persons understood the meaning of the words being used. If you use a word differently than what Iunderstand it to mean, we get nowhere in our discussion. This led him to dwell briefly the original meaning of “gentleman” referring originally to an “Uppercrust” member of the gentry. Later it was relaxed so that someone said to be “acting like a gentleman” was understood to be acting properly even thought not of the gentry himself. I believe he went on to discuss how important it is to use pronouns properly to insure clarity of meaning. If I don’t know what you prefer to be called I can’t be blamed for using the historical meaning, at least until you correct me. Then you are compelling me to use the language I don’t believe is proper.

    My high school English teacher is rolling in her grave.

  3. When I referred to a student as ‘she’ yesterday, I was immediately corrected that I had not used her preferred pronoun which was ‘they.’ I questioned why anyone would want to be referred to as ‘they’ and was told that we had to respect her gender identity. I continued the conversation keeping my reference to her as ‘she.’ Now waiting to see if I will be on the school’s chopping block…if so, I will make a stink to the press and every other media outlet who will print my stand…stay tuned…I will not back down in any way, shape, or matter. I was adamant and am thinking that I will not be prosecuted or persecuted because of my strong insistent stand…this is so laughable in this whole gender woke joke scheme of things…

  4. People who insist that you call them something completely absurd or blatantly bizarre have issues, which I am not allowed to correctly identify, despite my professional background and experience, as it considered hate speech. Yet joining the individual in their “issue” is considered kind and even “therapeutic”. Yeah, that doesn’t wash. If the individual is so fixated on the use of a pronoun, they have significant issues. And the use of the pronoun is the very least of them.