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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, December 02, 2020

#FREESPEECH in the News December 2, 2020

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

#FREESPEECH in the News December 2, 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.) Ohio House OKs bill to ban colleges from blocking controversial speakers, setting up ‘free speech zones’

The Ohio House on Wednesday passed legislation that would prohibit public colleges and universities in the state from taking steps to ban controversial speakers on campus or set up “free speech zones.”

Senate Bill 40, which passed along a mostly party-line 65-27 vote, now heads back to the Ohio Senate for a final vote. While the legislation previously passed the Senate unanimously, the House added a new provision that would offer in-state tuition rates to GED holders who return to Ohio from another state.

SB 40, dubbed the “Forming Open and Robust University Minds Act” (or FORUM Act) would ban state colleges and universities, as well as school officials, from taking any action to stop free-speech on campus except for “reasonable” and “content-neutral” restrictions that “provide for ample alternative means for expressive activities.”

It specifically prohibits campus “free speech zones” (designated areas for protests or demonstrations), bans charging a security fee for invited speakers. It also outlaws other policies that effectively curb freedom of expression, such as “trigger warnings” that alert people ahead of time about potentially distressing material, according to state Rep. Niraj Antani, a Dayton-area Republican.

2.) CCSD removes controversial freedom of speech proposal just days after posting; district staff weigh in

The Clark County School District, which includes Las Vegas, posted a controversial proposal about redefining employee free speech online before the holiday weekend. The proposal caused uncertainty and unease, and was removed Monday evening.

CCSD staff and parents questioned the intention of the policy proposal that was then suddenly removed from the district’s website.

A two-page document online titled “Employee Freedom of Speech” seemed to impose restrictions on when employees can talk freely about public concerns, which includes district issues.

3.) Bans on conversion therapy violate First Amendment, court rules

A federal appeals court has ruled that Palm Beach County and the city of Boca Raton have violated the First Amendment right of free speech in the U.S. Constitution by banning therapists from practicing "conversion therapy" on minors, which is attempting to change their sexual orientation.

In 2017, the county and city passed ordinances which ban medical providers from treating minors with "any counseling, practice or treatment performed with the goal of changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity."

Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, licensed marriage and family therapists based in Palm Beach County, sued the county and city of Boca Raton, arguing the ordinances violate the First Amendment and prevent them from speaking freely with clients.

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