FILE - Ann Arbor First Amendment lawsuit

Grant Strobl, left, and Jacob Chludzinski of ThinkRight Strategies.

Two businessmen have filed a lawsuit against the city of Ann Arbor claiming a local ordinance violates their First Amendment rights by forcing them to advocate for beliefs they oppose.

Ann Arbor passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for businesses to discriminate based on political beliefs.

Grant Strobl and Jacob Chludzinski filed a lawsuit challenging the law, saying that it forces their political consulting firm, ThinkRight Strategies, to express political messages that contradict their views.

Strobl and Chludzinski have partnered with political candidates and organizations to promote conservative messages, views, policies and platforms. But they are concerned that the new law means ThinkRight Strategies must advocate for progressive causes and others that violate their beliefs because they advocate for conservative political causes.

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Samuel Green told The Center Square that these laws force people to advocate for causes against their strong convictions.

“The same law could be used to violate people’s freedom of speech on all sides of the political spectrum,” he said. “It could require a Democratic speechwriter in Ann Arbor to write campaign speeches for President Trump. It could require a pacifist painter to create paintings for a pro-war mural. On the flip side, it could require a pro-life filmmaker to create promotional videos for Planned Parenthood.”

He said that Ann Arbor’s public accommodations law prohibits businesses like ThinkRight from discriminating based on political beliefs.

“That is troubling, and this lawsuit is basically asking a court to step in and reaffirm the fundamental First Amendment principle that people should be free to choose for themselves which political positions they promote,” he said.

The law even keeps Grant and Jacob from explaining on their website that they cannot advance certain political beliefs, he said.

The city threatens fines up to $500 per day if Grant and Jacob violate this ordinance. Ann Arbor could also require them to pay the city’s enforcement costs and force them to comply via court orders.

An Ann Arbor spokesperson said the city can't comment on pending litigation.

Green said it was a free speech violation.

“The First Amendment protects people's freedom to say what they wish to say, but also to not say things that violate their convictions,” he said. “We can’t allow the government to force people to champion political causes that violate their deepest convictions.”

This should worry those with any political beliefs who don’t want to advocate for issues in which they disagree, he said.

“So regardless of where people fall on the political divide, they should all hope that Grant and Jacob succeed in this lawsuit, because if the government can compel Grant and Jacob to use their own voice to advocate for views they oppose, it can do the same to others,” Green said. “And that’s something that should concern everyone.”

Staff Writer

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.