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Public Free Speech Under Attack

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November 18, 2009

This morning in a federal court building in Denver, Colorado, lawyers for two Bush administration operatives argued for legal protection of a policy to silence the public at taxpayer-funded public meetings.

Lawyers representing the Bush administration “volunteers” argued that there was not an obviously established right to have an opposing opinion in a taxpayer-funded meeting and therefore the court should not allow the case against them to even be presented.

Fortunately, a member of the three-judge panel pointed out a flaw in this argument, stating, for instance, that any child knows that a student can’t be removed from a classroom just because they have a viewpoint that is different from the teacher.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that this kind of limit on speech is so draconian that, if upheld, it would allow even city councils to ban people from meetings if they disliked the point of view they may have.

A dangerous precedent could be established, allowing viewpoint discrimination in buildings which are not wholly owned by the government, and would allow politicians to effectively ban free speech simply by using private property to hold public meetings.

The federal court system has been glacially slow; today’s argument comes some 4 1/2 years after we were removed from a public town-hall style meeting in Denver about altering Social Security solely because the Bush administration didn’t like the bumper sticker on the car we arrived in. We have yet to be allowed even to argue the facts of the case.

Hopefully the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in our favor and this case will see the light of day. Anything short of that sets a precedent which is lethal to free speech.

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