WASHINGTON— Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese and First Liberty Institute CEO Kelly Shackelford will reach out to state supreme courts to preserve free speech and religious-liberty rights for lawyers and clients around the nation, working to stop a draft gag order against lawyers now being touted as an ethics rule.
The American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) rule would make it professional poison for lawyers to freely express conservative viewpoints on a wide range of political issues—but especially on Christian issues like abortion, marriage, and gender.
ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) makes it a violation of legal ethics—meaning the lawyer could lose her professional license—if she manifests “bias” on issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status, among other issues like race and sex. Lawyers could thus be punished for criticizing illegal aliens, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, or other liberal sacred cows.
The danger is especially great for Christian lawyers, who could be banished from the legal profession for expressing biblical views on marriage, transgenderism, and abortion. A lawyer’s “social activities” can be cited as manifesting bias, so even church functions could be grounds for punishment, creating a profound threat to religious liberty.
In an Aug. 17 op-ed in the Washington Times, Meese and Shackelford explain in terms that should garner support from a wide range of Americans:
A lawyer who loses a license can no longer earn a living, either in private practice or working for a law firm or company performing legal work. This fuses economic and social issues. Nobody should want to ban any productive adult from being economically self-sufficient; everyone needs the ability to work at a job to support his or her family.
Citing specific quotes from ABA official records, they continue, “Frighteningly, ABA leaders’ statements verify that they understand—and intend—the ramifications of Model Rule 8.4. President Paulette Brown advocates that the ABA must prevent ‘bias’ in ways that go far beyond current law.”
Meese and Shackelford make the point that, “Popular speech rarely needs legal protection. The law protects dissenters’ right to disagree with governmental orthodoxy. It must not become a weapon to oppress those dissenters.”
They explain that they must now go to the highest court of each state—which is the government authority that issues bar licenses to practice law—to make the case of why this rule would violate the First Amendment rights of both lawyers and their clients. States that choose to adopt the rule anyway could be sued in federal court by conservative lawyers in those states.
The op-ed concludes ominously, “The ABA’s un-American censorship regime is beyond draconian; it coerces conformity regarding religious and political beliefs on a level unprecedented in American history. It borders on fascism, and must be explicitly repudiated.”
Read the full article here.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News, senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, and a fellow at the American Civil Rights Union. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.