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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, December 13, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News December 13, 2021

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

#FREESPEECH in the News December 13, 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.) Free speech and criminal trespass at animal facilities

A federal judge in Austin has blocked Texas' new social media law — which targets Twitter, Facebook and other large platforms that Republicans accuse of censoring conservatives — as an unconstitutional violation of the companies' free speech rights.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said the law known as House Bill 20, which prohibits large social media companies from censoring users based on their viewpoints, interferes with the platforms' editorial discretion and their First Amendment right to moderate the third-party content they disseminate.

"HB 20 prohibits virtually all content moderation, the very tool that social media platforms employ to make their platforms safe, useful, and enjoyable for users," Pitman wrote in an order released Wednesday night.

The law was to take effect Thursday. Texas officials are expected to appeal.

2.) A federal lawsuit filed by Bruce Castor argues that vaccine status is protected free speech and nobody’s business

Federal unions are suing the Biden administration over its vaccine mandate, claiming the issue has become so politically divisive that disclosing one’s vaccination status should be protected free speech. Federal employees shouldn’t be forced to disclose whether they have a vaccine card, the suit claims.

Bruce Castor, former Montgomery County district attorney who defended Donald Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial in February, represents American Federation of Government Employees locals that seek to prohibit the U.S. government from enforcing an executive order requiring that federal employees be vaccinated. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Union members who fail to show they’re vaccinated could be publicly stigmatized as “ ‘rightwing extremists,’ or worse,” the suit says. The unions named in the suit are the National Council of Prison Locals 33 and the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2018, on a U.S. Marine base in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

3.) Madison Schools to pay $107,500 in federal free speech lawsuit

Madison Schools have agreed to pay Billy Ison and his lawyers $107,500 after a federal appeals court ruled the district violated his free speech rights during the debates over its gun policy.

The settlement agreement stipulates the six-figure settlement amount and that the district will not restrict speech that is abusive, personally directed or antagonistic anymore.

The settlement states Ison received $2,500, and three law firms who represented him will get the rest.

Ison’s attorney Jennifer Kinsley told the Journal-News she can’t comment on the case until District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett signs off on the settlement. Madison’s new Superintendent Jeff Staggs also said he had no comment.

Ison, his family and a friend sued the schools in February 2019 in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. They claimed the school board violated their right to free expression and made it virtually impossible for them to speak their views about the controversial concealed-carry gun policy during school board meetings.

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