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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, February 22, 2022

#FREESPEECH in the News Feb. 22, 2022

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

#FREESPEECH in the News Feb. 22, 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.) A federal court says requiring a license to give dietary advice doesn't violate free speech rights

A federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of a Florida law that restricts unlicensed people from giving dietary advice, rejecting arguments that it violates First Amendment rights.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the challenge filed by Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, who was cited by the Florida Department of Health in 2017 for getting paid to provide dietary advice without being a state-licensed dietitian or nutritionist. Del Castillo ran what the ruling described as a “health-coaching business,” which included offering dietary advice to clients. After receiving a complaint from a licensed dietitian and investigating, the Department of Health alleged Del Castillo violated a law known as the Dietetics and Nutrition Practice Act.

Del Castillo filed a legal challenge, contending the law violates her speech rights. A federal district judge sided with the department, and the panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court upheld that decision. The 26-page opinion, written by Judge Robert Luck and joined by Judges Elizabeth Branch and Ed Carnes, said the law’s “licensing scheme for dieticians and nutritionists regulated professional conduct and only incidentally burdened Del Castillo’s speech. Because the burden on her speech rights was only incidental, the act’s licensing scheme did not violate her First Amendment free speech rights.”

2.) Elon Musk says the SEC is gunning for his free speech rights

Elon Musk is convinced that the Securities Exchange Commission is gunning for him and his free speech rights because he's a frequent critic of the government.

"The SEC seems to be targeting Mr. Musk and Tesla for unrelenting investigation largely because Mr. Musk remains an outspoken critic of the government," said a letter that Musk's lawyers filed in the Southern District of New York this week. "The SEC's outsized efforts seem calculated to chill his exercise of First Amendment rights rather than to enforce generally applicable laws in evenhanded fashion."

The letter was submitted in a case stemming from an SEC action against Musk for allegedly deceiving shareholders, which is within the agency's legal purview. That case revolves around Musk's 2018 tweet claiming that he would be taking Tesla private at a price of $420 a share, and that he had "funding secured" to do just that. It later became clear that while he did have discussions about funding such a bid, the funding was by no means secured.

3.) Alabama riot bill carries mandatory jail time; opponents say it would stifle free speech

A bill to require mandatory jail time for people arrested under a new definition of rioting is expected to spark arguments in the Alabama House of Representatives this week. Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, said Alabama needs a stronger law to respond to what he called organized and well-funded efforts to turn protests into riots that can cause injuries and deaths, property damage, and assaults on police and emergency workers.

Treadaway retired last year as assistant police chief in Birmingham. He brought the bill in response to the protest that turned violent in Birmingham during the wave of unrest after the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in 2020.

Opponents of Treadaway’s bill say it would stifle First Amendment rights because people would risk jail time by taking part in a protest. The bill would change the definition of riot. A person could be charged with rioting under that definition after receiving a police order to disperse or if violating a curfew. People arrested for rioting could be held 24 hours before being allowed to post bail. Those convicted of the crime, a misdemeanor, would face a mandatory 30 days in jail.

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