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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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Tuesday, September 07, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News August 7, 2021

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

#FREESPEECH in the News August 7, 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.) Virginia Supreme Court: Teacher can maintain position pending free-speech lawsuit

A Virginia teacher who criticized Loudoun County Public School’s new transgender policy before it went into effect will be allowed to continue teaching, at least for now, the state’s Supreme Court ruled.

LCPS originally suspended physical education teacher Tanner Cross after he publicly criticized a proposed transgender policy during a school board meeting. The policy had not been adopted at the time, but has since been approved by the board. Cross sued the school, arguing the suspension violated his right to free speech.

A lower court ruled LCPS must reinstate him as a teacher pending the outcome of the trial, deciding his right to free speech outweighs any disruption he may have caused to school operations. The school’s lawyers argued the free speech protections did not outweigh the students’ protection from discrimination, but the Supreme Court sided with Cross and the lower court.

2.) Former lecturer sues UNL for violating her free speech rights after protest

A former University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student and lecturer is suing the university for violating her rights after she was removed from her teaching duties following a political protest.

The federal lawsuit, filed in Nebraska last week by Courtney Lawton, accuses UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and former NU President Hank Bounds of violating her rights to free speech and due process following the 2017 incident.

Lawton, who held a part-time teaching appointment in UNL's English Department, was filmed protesting Turning Point USA, a student organization with ties to then-President Donald Trump, at the Nebraska Union, a designated "free speech zone" on campus.

The viral video prompted backlash from conservatives, who pointed to it as evidence the university was a hostile place for conservative students, and elicited a critical tweet from Bounds that Lawton's behavior was "unprofessional."

3.) Oklahoma NAACP sues to block law that could 'chill' free speech, protests

The Oklahoma chapter of the NAACP is suing two top law enforcement officials over a new state law the group says will limit protests and have a chilling effect on free speech.

The nation's oldest civil rights group and the Georgetown Law Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection are challenging an Oklahoma law that classifies as a misdemeanor the unlawful obstruction of a road or highway and enacts fines for organizations "found to be a conspirator" with someone who violates any one of a number of state laws pertaining to riots and unlawful assemblies.

The lawsuit argues the NAACP could be charged as a conspirator even if the organization does not conspire to commit any riot-related crimes.

The groups say the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which grants Americans the right to peacefully assemble and receive equal protection under the law.

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