New from the Institute for Free Speech
Forsyth County Schools Sued for Censorship at Board Meetings
Concerned parents in Forsyth County want school officials to confront the sexually graphic material in books they provide to children in school libraries. The Board of Education, however, has censored speakers at board meetings who read excerpts containing language the Chair deems “inappropriate” for children. After one parent persisted, the Board banned her from participating in future meetings until she agrees to limit her First Amendment rights.
On July 25, two parents and the Mama Bears of Forsyth County filed a federal lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Education for violating their constitutional rights. They are represented in the lawsuit by attorneys from the Institute for Free Speech, a nonpartisan First Amendment advocacy group that defends political speech rights.
“The Board may think their speech is offensive, but it’s protected by the First Amendment. School officials cannot censor or ban parents from repeating ‘inappropriate’ language at board meetings, especially when they quote from relevant school materials and library books,” said Martha Astor, Attorney at the Institute for Free Speech.
In the News
Forsyth County News: Parents file lawsuit against Forsyth County Schools, BOE for alleged free speech violation
By Sabrina Kerns
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the board of education and the school district violated their First Amendment rights to free speech during school board meetings earlier this year.
Parents and community members came to the meetings for public participation to speak directly to the board about the process for removing books from school media centers. Many who supported the removal of certain books said they found copies containing “sexually explicit” material they felt students should not have access to.
Some parents, including Martin and Hair, read content from the books during their three minutes allotted for public participation at several board meetings.
During some passages, BOE Chairman Wes McCall asked the speaker to pause, saying that reading these passages out loud went against the board’s public participation policy, which states that “profane, rude, defamatory remarks and personal attacks will not be allowed.”
It also states that speakers who violate this policy will “have their allotted speaking time immediately concluded.”
National Taxpayers Union Foundation: In Defense of Private Foundations, Donor Advised Funds, and Private Giving
By Tyler Martinez
Citing worries about wealth inequality, demanding greater public disclosure of donors, and wishing to generate more tax revenue, the progressive Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released a report calling for a substantial and unnecessary overhaul of charitable giving rules at the federal level. Not only are the recommendations unhelpful, they can damage the ability of groups to aid and advocate on behalf of causes they believe in…
Donor privacy is an important First Amendment right, particularly for those who give to controversial causes. For decades, the Supreme Court has consistently shielded organizational donors and supporters from generalized donor disclosure, and it continued to do so just last year. This is particularly important for advocacy on controversial topics. As the Supreme Court recognized in protecting the NAACP: “[e]ffective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association,” because that there is a “vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations.”
Insider: After commissioners’ verbal brawl, FEC won’t let Rep. Eric Swalwell’s use campaign cash to fund overnight childcare when traveling abroad
By Madison Hall
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell cannot use campaign funds to pay for childcare services when traveling “at the request of foreign governments” — or do so when campaigning on behalf of other political candidates, the Federal Election Commission ruled this week.
The decision comes nearly two weeks after Republican Commissioner Trey Trainor castigated Swalwell at a public meeting, calling the California congressman’s request “abhorrent.” The rebuke prompted Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub to lambaste Trainor in a series of tweets that referenced “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The commission, however, did affirm in a 5-0 vote Monday that Swalwell could use campaign funds to pay for overnight childcare when traveling for own campaign.
Choteau Acantha: Bill appears to stomp on free speech
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican representing Montana, and five other Republican senators in June introduced the “Firearms Industry Non-Discrimination Act,” which they said, would stop the federal government from entering into contracts with entities that promote anti-Second Amendment policies. This bill would empower the federal government to prevent companies from receiving government contracts if those companies had policies the federal government deemed “anti-Second Amendment.”
The draft legislation would require the federal government to check each company bidding on a government job to make sure that company “has no policy, practice, guidance or directive that discriminates against a firearm entity or firearm trade association” and that the company “will not adopt a policy, practice, guidance or directive that discriminates against a firearm entity or firearm trade association during the term of the contract.”
Newsweek: No, Canceling Chappelle Is Not a ‘Win for Free Speech’
By Greg Lukianoff
Imagine these headlines:
“Salman Rushdie dumped by publisher after The Satanic Verses offends the Ayatollah of Iran. Victory for free expression!”
“Lenny Bruce’s sold-out show in New York City canceled after religious staffers at the club decry foul language. Victory for artistic expression!”
“Prince concert canceled after Tipper Gore complains about vulgar lyrics in “Darling Nikki.” Victory for free speech!”
You’d have to have a pretty odd sense of history to consider any of those could-have-been scenarios as victories for freedom of expression. Yet a surprising number of people are asserting exactly that when it comes to a Minneapolis venue called First Avenue that canceled Dave Chappelle’s comedy show this week.
Critics lined up no shortage of strawmen to justify First Avenue’s cancellation decision, hyping the fact that private venues are under no obligation to host any speaker (good thing no one argued that they are!) or that the cancellation is a win for the expressive rights of the workers at the venue who disapproved of the show.
Jonathan Turley: Harvard Journal Publishes Turley Free Speech Study
I am happy to report that my law review article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy is now out in print. The article entitled “Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States,” explores the anti-free speech movement in the United States and the increasingly common claim that free speech itself is harmful…
Here is an excerpt:
Online Speech Platforms
Axios: Exclusive: Hulu to begin accepting political issue ads
By Sara Fischer
Disney on Wednesday confirmed to Axios that it would allow political issue ads — in addition to candidate ads — on Hulu’s streaming service, effective immediately, bringing Hulu’s ad policies to parity with Disney’s cable networks.
The change comes amid a controversy over Hulu’s decision to reject political issue ads around guns and abortions from Democratic groups.
Those issues have become central to the Democrats’ midterm messaging, and Disney’s decision to reject the ads on Hulu prompted complaints of censorship.
The Hill: Corporate PACs rack up $21 million in donations to election objectors
By Karl Evers-Hillstrom
Corporate PACs affiliated with Fortune 500 companies and their trade groups have donated $21.5 million to GOP lawmakers who objected to the 2020 election results, according to a new report from the liberal advocacy group Accountable.US…
Very few large corporations are still ruling out donations to all of the 147 GOP objectors — which include lawmakers in line to win leadership positions or committee gavels depending on the results of November’s elections — instead opting not to bankroll a small number of Republicans who continue to make inaccurate and inflammatory statements about the 2020 election…
“Companies that claim to support democracy but fail to align their political spending with their stated values need to make it clear to their customers, shareholders, and own employees that they value something much more — having political influence over lawmakers no matter how dangerous their views,” Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig said in a statement.
WSHU: Suffolk County repeals campaign finance with veto override
By Charles Lane
The Suffolk County Legislature has again voted to repeal its public campaign finance program. Two-thirds of lawmakers overturned a veto by County Executive Steve Bellone last week.
The Republican-led legislature repealed the program last month, before its first payout for candidates running in 2023. The GOP would rather use the program’s $2.6 million on public safety, like hiring more 911 dispatch operators and Shotspotter gun-fire detection technology.