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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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Monday, March 29, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News March 29, 2021

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

#FREESPEECH in the News March 29, 2021

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.) ACLU, Duke Law's First Amendment Clinic voice concerns over mass gathering ordinance

Free speech advocates from Duke University and the American Civil Liberties Union have weighed in on a proposed Gaston County mass gathering ordinance they warn could infringe on constitutional rights.

Sarah Ludington, the director of Duke Law School's First Amendment Clinic and Kristi Graunke, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina wrote that a controversial plan to impose a notification requirement for groups of 25 or more people meeting on county property is an "overbroad" restraint on speech and invites "discriminatory enforcement," in violation of the Constitutions of both the United States and North Carolina. Gaston County commissioners are expected to vote on the ordinance at their meeting Tuesday.

A draft ordinance originally unveiled in January sought to create a permitting scheme that would have required groups organizing protests or events within the county's jurisdiction to pay hefty fees and seek approval from officials 30-days in advance of a gathering like a protest, event or parade. The ordinance needed unanimous commissioner approval to pass but failed after Tom Keigher, chairman of the Gaston County Board of Commissioners, opposed the resolution on free speech grounds.

2.) Utah lawmakers passed two bills dealing with online content that critics say violate the First Amendment.

A pair of bills passed by lawmakers during the 2021 Utah Legislature raised significant questions about the role of government in policing free speech.

The first, SB228 from Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, aimed to put regulations on how social media companies moderate online content. Critics warned the bill was likely unconstitutional or would be preempted by existing federal law. Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed it earlier this week.

The second, HB72, dubbed the “adult filter” bill, requires all new cellphones and tablets sold in Utah to have adult content filters turned on by default.

3.) Appeals court says U-I administrators liable in free speech student case

A federal appeals court says three University of Iowa administrators can be held personally liable for monetary damages for improperly revoking the Business Leaders in Christ student group status.The ruling by the appeals court overturns the portion of an earlier ruling which said that the administrators who violated the group’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association in 2017 — but had immunity from damages.

The group was suspended after it barred a student from serving in its leadership who had disclosed he was gay and would not go along with the group’s beliefs on the issue. The first ruling found that the U-I selectively enforced its human rights policy because exemptions were granted for fraternities, sororities, and other groups on campus.

The suit was brought against Dean of Students Lyn Redington, Assistant Dean of Students Thomas Baker, and the executive director of the Iowa Memorial Union, William Nelson.


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