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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, January 10, 2022

#FREESPEECH in the News January 10, 2022

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

#FREESPEECH in the News January 10, 2022

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.) Student files lawsuit against Noblesville Schools, alleges violation of free speech, intimidation

A Noblesville High School freshman student recently filed a lawsuit against Noblesville High School and Noblesville Schools alleging a violation of free speech rights and intimidation. According to a press release from Students for Life of America, the lawsuit was filed by Charitable Allies, Inc. on behalf of the student, referenced as E.D. throughout the case file since she is a minor.

Charitable Allies is an Indianapolis organization that works with “nonprofits across the U.S. to assist with a variety of legal issues, including incorporation, tax issues, personnel and HR issues, board governance and training, and litigation support,” according to its website.

Supt. Beth Niedermeyer, NHS Principal Craig McCaffrey, NHS Assistant Principal Janae Mobley, NHS Assistant Principal Daniel Swafford, NHS dean Jeremy Luna and other school leaders, including Alexandra Snider Pasko, Alison Rootes, Allison Schwingendorf-Haley, Byron Simpson, Elizabeth Kizer, Emily Patterson-Jackson, Grace Tuesca and Stephanie Eads, were named in the lawsuit. The case stated that after E.D. allegedly attempted to form a club chapter for Students for Life of America in July 2021, efforts were made by school leadership to “stave off the nascent pro-life, student-sponsored, club.”

2.) Judge weighs arguments on University of Florida free speech policy

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker held a fiery hearing Friday on the plaintiffs’ request to block the university from enforcing a policy that drew national attention after three political science professors were blocked from testifying in an elections law case. A federal judge sparred Friday with an attorney representing University of Florida leaders in a lawsuit filed by professors challenging a school policy that gives administrators discretion to block faculty from participating in legal cases.

Political science professors Sharon Austin, Michael McDonald and Daniel Smith filed the lawsuit after university officials denied their requests to serve as plaintiffs’ witnesses in a legal battle about a new state elections law (SB 90) that will, in part, make it harder for Floridians to vote by mail.

In denying the professors’ requests, university officials said that going against the executive branch of the government was “adverse” to the school’s interests. The professors, who were joined by three other faculty members in the lawsuit, contend that the university’s conflict-of-interest policy violates First Amendment speech rights, discriminates based on viewpoint and content, and is having a “chilling” effect.

3.) Harrisburg flag-burning activist sues, again claiming his free speech rights violated

The Harrisburg area activist known for burning a combination Trump/Confederate flag as a protest has sued a township in Union County alleging his free speech rights were violated. This is at least the eighth suit Gene Stilp has filed in U.S. Middle District Court after being charged with violating a local burning ordinance.

One filed Tuesday is against East Buffalo Twp., a suburb of Lewisburg, where he was cited on March 12, 2020. A district judge found him guilty of violating the open burning ordinance but his conviction was vacated upon appeal to county court. His suit claims the East Buffalo ordinance is over broad because it bans burning in public places at all times.

He also claims it inhibits his right of free speech by preventing him from publicly protesting through flag burning. Stilp burned flags in more than two dozen communities leading up to the 2020 election in protest of what he calls President Trump’s “horrible values” on racism, bigotry, hatred, white supremacy and ethnic intimidation. His earlier suits have included those against Harrisburg, Lebanon, Lewisburg, Middleburg, Mifflinburg, Wellsboro and Williamsport. Many of them have been settled.

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