The Institute for Free Speech is hiring a Senior Attorney with a minimum of seven years of experience. The location for this position is either at our Washington, D.C. office or remotely anywhere in the United States.
This is a rare opportunity to work with a growing team to litigate a long-term legal strategy directed toward the protection of Constitutional rights. We challenge laws, practices, and policies that infringe upon First Amendment freedoms, such as speech codes that censor parents at school board meetings, laws restricting people’s ability to give and receive campaign contributions, and any intrusion into people’s private political associations. You would work to hold censors accountable; and to secure legal precedents clearing away a thicket of laws, regulations, and practices that suppress speech about government and candidates for political office, threaten citizens’ privacy if they speak or join groups, and impose heavy burdens on political activity.
In the News
LevittownNow.com: Pennsbury Settles First Amendment Lawsuit For $300,000
By Tom Sofield
The Pennsbury School Board voted Thursday evening to settle a free speech lawsuit that gained national attention…
The lawsuit claimed school district officials violated the First Amendment by restricting public comments made at board meetings. It stated “Pennsbury’s board members and officials set out to censor citizens whose political views they despise.”
The complaint was filed after Pennsbury was caught editing public comments from the March 2021 and May 2021 meetings.
The lawsuit pointed to times when Pennsbury shut down public comments that criticized the district and board, citing several incidents in 2020 and 2021. The filing mentions the February 2021 meeting where the board declined reading public comment, a break from their standard practice.
Following the lawsuit and an injunction from a federal judge, the district junked board Policy 903 that allowed officials to stop comments they perceived as “personally directed,” abusive,” irrelevant,” offensive,” “otherwise inappropriate,” or “personal attacks” from being enforced. The school board is also changed Policy 922 that allowed officials to stop comments they believed were “offensive,” “inappropriate,” “intolerant,” “disruptive,” and “verbally abusive.”
New from the Institute for Free Speech
Institute for Free Speech President David Keating will testify before the Senate Rules Committee at 3 PM on July 19 concerning threats to free political speech in the DISCLOSE Act (S. 443). Keating’s testimony explains that despite hyperbolic rhetoric about “dark money” in elections, the nation currently has more laws mandating public disclosure of political contributions and spending than at any time in our history.
“Elected officials who decry the spread of ‘misinformation’ need to stop misleading the public about political spending. Less than 5 percent of spending in elections comes from groups that do not publicly report the identities of their donors. We are not talking about taming a ‘wild west’ here. We are talking about creating a police state for speech and the most extreme disclosure regime in American history,” said David Keating, President of the Institute for Free Speech, in advance of the hearing.
The DISCLOSE Act would publicly expose the names and addresses of many supporters of nonprofit causes, putting Americans at risk of harassment and retaliation for their beliefs. In addition, the legal and compliance costs for groups will force many smaller grassroots organizations to self-censor. The legislation would significantly increase the cost of criticizing the government, Keating’s testimony explains…
The hearing will take place at 3 PM on July 19 before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. It can be viewed online on the committee’s website here: https://www.rules.senate.gov/hearings/the-disclose-act
To read the full written testimony, click here, or go to: https://www.ifs.org/expert-analysis/testimony-of-david-keating-before-the-u-s-senate-rules-and-administration-committee-on-the-disclose-act/
People United for Privacy: The DISCLOSE Act Will Harm Nonprofits and Their Supporters
For just one example of the real world dangers of forced disclosure mandates, we encourage you to read the story of Dr. Yang Jianli and his organization, Citizen Power Initiatives for China, a pro-democracy nonprofit based in the United States. As hostility to free speech and democracy persist in America and around the world, Dr. Yang’s story makes a strong case for why we must protect citizen privacy.
The DISCLOSE Act will require nonprofits to report their supporters to the Federal Election Commission for common types of communications and require organizations to declare whether they support or oppose a political candidate, even if their message is about a legislative issue and not related to any campaign…
The DISCLOSE Act would also harm philanthropy by requiring nonprofits that make grants or payments to another organization to disclose their donors to the FEC, if the receiving organization plans to make “campaign-related disbursements” totaling $50,000 or within the next two years. Granting organizations will then be placed in the impossible position of predicting what the recipient may do in the future.
Yale Law School: Abrams Institute Receives Grant to Explore Press Clause
The Floyd Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression at Yale Law School announced that it will receive a substantial grant from the Stanton Foundation to engage in a two-year project that will focus on the too-often overlooked Press Clause of the First Amendment. Abrams will direct the project.
“For too long,” Abrams observed, “the provision in the First Amendment that freedom of speech ‘and of the press’ would be protected from government abridgment has led to justifiably broad protection of the former but far too little notice of the latter. It is time to begin to address that constitutional deficiency. Frank Stanton was a memorable champion of press freedom and it is thus especially meaningful that the grant that allows this project to proceed comes from the Stanton Foundation.”
The project will be designed to develop constitutional strategy aimed at protecting freedom of the press by bringing together academics, lawyers and journalists in workshops around the nation to discuss press freedom issues and to stimulate expanded scholarship and public engagement about the topic.
By Megan Brenan
Americans’ confidence in two facets of the news media — newspapers and television news — has fallen to all-time low points. Just 16% of U.S. adults now say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers and 11% in television news. Both readings are down five percentage points since last year.
People United for Privacy: Citizen Privacy Protected in Missouri on One-Year Anniversary of AFPF v. Bonta
On June 30, 2022, Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) signed House Bill 2400 into law, an omnibus bill that establishes the Personal Privacy Protection Act (PPPA). Under the PPPA, state agencies are generally forbidden from requiring nonprofit causes to report the private information of their members and supporters to the government. Additionally, safeguards are included to prohibit the public disclosure of nonprofit donor and member information already collected by certain state agencies. Representative Jered Taylor (R) introduced the standalone version of the PPPA in the House, and Senator Sandy Crawford (R) introduced the companion bill in the Senate. The passage of this law in Missouri marks the third victory for donor privacy in the states this year, following the passage of similar bills in Virginia and Kansas this spring.
By Ken Paulson
What this 10-year-old did was exactly what 10-year-olds do. He said goofy things to a buddy. What he did not do was threaten anyone.
The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to shoot their mouths off – even young ones. We should all be grateful for that. What is not protected is what courts call a “true threat,” defined by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as a threat that “on its face and in the circumstances in which it is made is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to the person threatened, as to convey a gravity of purpose and imminent prospect of execution.”
The 10-year-old’s texts were none of those things. They were silly, scattered, and totally devoid of “gravity of purpose.” The First Amendment bars prosecution unless a specific threat is made with a calculated intention of terrifying another. There was no anonymous call to the school. There was no threat to the student body. There was no public post. There was no scrawled manifesto. It was one boy texting another, and the latter’s father going to the police.