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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, April 18, 2022

#FREESPEECH in the News April 18, 2022

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

#FREESPEECH in the News April 18, 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.) Opponents: Latest education bill "whitewashes" history and violates free speech

The latest education bill, LB1077, was heard at the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee in the legislature on Thursday evening. The bill, which was introduced by District 16's Senator Ben Hansen, "does not work to hide the truth about history," said Hansen. It's to make sure teachers are teaching "objective facts of history."

Those who were both for and against this bill spoke before the committee. Only three people spoke up for the bill saying that the bill supports "American ideology" without forcing opinions on students. The opponents for the bill came by the dozen including professors, teachers, local non-profits, lawyers, and both high school and college students.

The consensus of those who were opposed to the bill is that the bill is "confusing," "vague," and violates the first amendment right to free speech. The bill gives the government "limitless power to withhold funding" if there are claims that a teacher violated this bill, said Richard Moberly, Dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law.

2.) Court rejects free speech lawsuit

A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit that accused county commissioner and Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin of free speech violations for blocking a local resident from discussions on the commissioner’s personal Facebook page, in a judgement published Friday.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver sided with Griffin in the dispute over his social media account and whether it functioned as a public forum concerning county affairs, with implied guarantees to public access and free speech. Griffin, an elected commissioner in southern New Mexico’s Otero County, was suspended indefinitely from Facebook in the aftermath of his arrest in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, where he appeared on an outdoor terrace and tried to lead the crowd in prayer. But the legal dispute over his social media account has persisted.

Three judges from the appeals court ruled unanimously that plaintiff Jeff Swanson, chairman of the Otero County Democratic Party, failed to show that the law has determined when a personal social media profile becomes a public forum, with 1st Amendment protections.

3.) Justices will hear free-speech claim from website designer who opposes same-sex marriage

Nearly four years after the Supreme Court declined to decide whether compelling a Colorado baker to bake a cake for same-sex couples would violate his right to freedom of speech, the justices agreed to take up a similar question in another case from Colorado, this time involving a website designer. The justices’ decision to grant review in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis sets up yet another major ruling on the intersection between LGBTQ rights and religious beliefs.

The case that the court agreed on Tuesday to hear was filed by Lorie Smith, who owns a graphic design firm and wants to expand her business to include wedding websites. Because she opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds, Smith does not want to design websites for same-sex weddings, and she wants to post a message on her own website to explain that. But a Colorado law prohibits businesses that are open to the public from discriminating against gay people or announcing their intent to do so.

Smith went to federal court, seeking a ruling that Colorado could not enforce its anti-discrimination law against her. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit agreed that Smith’s “creation of wedding websites is pure speech,” and that Colorado law compels Smith to create speech that she would otherwise refuse. But the anti-discrimination law does not violate the Constitution in this case, the court of appeals concluded, because the law is narrowly tailored to the state’s interest in ensuring that LGBTQ customers have access to the unique services that Smith provides.

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