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Michigan city under fire for law forcing citizens to promote political views they oppose

ADF attorneys file suit against Ann Arbor for law that violates First Amendment freedoms under guise of stopping discrimination

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019

Attorney sound bite:  Jonathan Scruggs

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a political consulting firm and its owners filed suit against the city of Ann Arbor in federal court Monday. The lawsuit challenges a city law that forces Grant Strobl, Jacob Chludzinski, and their company, ThinkRight Strategies, to promote political messages and causes that contradict their conservative and religious principles.

Ann Arbor law prohibits discrimination based on political beliefs, and that requires ThinkRight Strategies to create advocacy material promoting progressive causes and candidates because ThinkRight Strategies creates similar material promoting conservative causes and candidates. Further, the law bans Strobl and Chludzinski from posting statements on their website indicating that their firm promotes only conservative political positions. The law even requires the firm to seek work promoting progressive political positions if the firm takes certain steps to contact groups and individuals promoting conservative causes. Penalties for violating the law include fines up to $500 for each day a violation occurs.

“Americans should be free to advocate for the political ideals they cherish,” said ADF Legal Counsel Samuel Green. “Grant and Jacob created their business to advance their conservative political beliefs. But Ann Arbor’s law forces them to use their skills to promote political beliefs they oppose, like abortion and socialism. This coercion is not just un-American—it’s unconstitutional. While Grant and Jacob will work with anyone when it advances conservative political goals, they cannot use their talents to promote messages or causes that undermine their values.”

Strobl and Chludzinski are both Christians and political conservatives who began advocating for their political beliefs during childhood. Even as students, they helped numerous political campaigns, and they encouraged political involvement and critical thinking among their classmates and the public.

Strobl and Chludzinski’s friendship grew as they participated in their campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, an organization that promotes conservative principles on high school and college campuses. Having recently launched their political consulting and marketing business, they decided to file the lawsuit ThinkRight Strategies v. City of Ann Arbor with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, to ask it to rule that they can freely speak and advocate consistent with their beliefs.

“The First Amendment protects people’s freedom to choose what to say and what to endorse, and Americans don’t have to wait to be punished to protect this freedom,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, director of the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives. “That’s why we are representing Grant and Jacob in this challenge to an unjust and unconstitutional law. We can all agree that a pacifist painter shouldn’t be forced to paint a pro-war mural, and a Democratic speechwriter shouldn’t be forced to write speeches for President Trump. But Ann Arbor’s law requires these absurd results. As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NIFLA v. Becerra, ‘the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.’ We’re hopeful this lawsuit will cause Ann Arbor to quickly reverse course and respect the First Amendment.”

In the lawsuit, a pre-enforcement challenge to various provisions in Ann Arbor Code Chapter 112, ADF attorneys argue that the ordinance violates ThinkRight Strategies’ First Amendment right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of the press and its 14th Amendment right to due process. In addition to the complaint, ADF attorneys filed a motion for preliminary injunction that asks the court to halt enforcement of Ann Arbor’s law against ThinkRight Strategies while the lawsuit goes forward.

Timothy W. Denney, one of nearly 3,400 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case for Strobl, Chludzinski, and their business.
  • Pronunciation guide: Strobl (STROH’-bull), Chludzinski (clue-JIN’-ski)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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