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Debunking Mazie Hirono's Monstrous Lie About Janus 'Weaponizing the First Amendment'

On the third day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) echoed Justice Elena Kagan in attacking Janus v. AFSCME — a key free speech case — as "weaponizing the First Amendment." While focusing on unions, Hirono entirely overlooked the grievous injustice of forcing workers to subsidize unions they refused to join, and may vehemently disagree with. One woman was forced to pay the union that campaigned against her husband.

"With its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, in a 5-4 decision, five of the justices overturned decades-old precedent, a case called Abood [the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Educators], that workers depended on for fair salaries and basic rights," Hirono declared.

She quoted Justice Kagan twice, first saying that "5 justices overturned Abood 'because they wanted to,'" then arguing that the Supreme Court has been "weaponizing the First Amendment."

"Just last year, the First Amendment was used to advance a political agenda against workers and women's health and reproductive rights," Hirono alleged. She then launched into a conspiracy theory suggesting conservative organizations are out to make life worse for "workers, women, and everyday Americans."

"The Janus decision is important here because it shows how your nomination works in a larger campaign that groups like the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation have been waging for decades. Their goal is to undermine well-established Supreme Court precedent that protects workers, women, and everyday Americans," the senator alleged.

All of this is utterly false fear mongering and scare tactics.

Besides Janus, Hirono attacked the ruling in NIFLA v. Becerra. This case "weaponized the First Amendment " against "women's health and reproductive rights" by striking down a California law that would have forced pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion clinics.

In no way did NIFLA damage "women's health and reproductive rights." In fact, the case enabled pregnancy centers to stay open, allowing them to continue helping women facing crisis pregnancies. The pro-life centers would have faced heavy fines and would likely have shut their doors rather than become abortion referral agencies.

Similarly, Janus involved government forcing workers to subsidize speech they disagreed with. Under the 1977 case Abood, unions could demand agency fees from workers, even if the workers refused to join the union. The Court ruled that unions provide benefits to workers, even if the workers did not join the union. To prevent the "free rider" problem, the Court ruled that unions could impose agency fees, so long as they remained separated from the political aspects of a union.

With public sector unions, however, any bargaining is inherently political. Higher wages means higher taxes, and workers are literally bargaining against the people's elected representatives. For this reason, even notorious New Deal president Franklin Delano Roosevelt opposed public sector unions.