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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

#FREESPEECH in the News November 25, 2020

Bliss Davis, Content and Programming Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH in the News November 25, 2020

As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news – and what you should know about – in the past week.

1.) Man appeals two $1 fines, says free speech is the issue

The Harrisburg area activist known for burning flags in protest in front of public buildings is appealing his Union County conviction and his two $1 fines. The First Amendment right of free speech is the issue of the appeal not the fines, Gene Stilp said Monday.

“The First Amendment must be followed and it does not matter that the fine was only $1,” the Middle Paxton Twp. resident said.

In finding Stilp violated the burning ordinances of Lewisburg and East Buffalo Twp., District Judge Jeffrey A. Rowe wrote:

“To be clear, this opinion should not be interpreted as an indication of this court’s judgment as to the validity or merit of Mr. Stilp’s First Amendment arguments.”

District judges do not have the authority to rule on the constitutionality of ordinances, the judge said. That will be up to the court of common pleas, he said.

2.) 'Free Speech' Social Network Parler Allegedly Censoring #WriteInTrumpforGA

Social network Parler has allegedly hidden posts on its website that are tagged as #WriteInTrumpForGA. The hashtag is encouraging disgruntled supporters of President Donald Trump to write the president in rather than any candidate for the upcoming Senate Runoff elections.

The hashtag originated in a Super PAC with GOP ties.The Committee for American Sovereignty, connected to political consultant Roger Stone, launched a website calling for people to "Hack the Runoff," and write in Trump.

3.) Judge: ‘Offensive to Good Taste’ Rule for California License Plates Infringes Free Speech

A federal judge found California’s ban on “offensive” personalized license plates unconstitutional Tuesday, ruling it constitutes viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment.

State regulations require the bureaucracy to refuse configurations that are “offensive to good taste and decency,” based on criteria that includes obscene, vulgar, or sexual language, or has “a negative connotation to a specific group.”

Lead plaintiff Paul Ogilvie, a disabled army veteran, sued the DMV in March after it rejected his request for a plate stating “OGWOOLF,” a military nickname that the DMV construed as a reference to a gang affiliation. The DMV also rejected a request for a “SLAAYR” plate, paying homage to the California rock band, because it was deemed “threatening, aggressive, or hostile.” A gay man had his request for a “QUEER” plate rejected as well.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar enjoined the “offensive to good taste” provision in his 16-page opinion Tuesday, noting the U.S. Supreme Court has previously shot down laws disfavoring “ideas that offend.”

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