(Liberty Bell) – The folks over at the American Center for Law and Justice just won a massive victory, resulting in a policy change inside the Washington State Park and Recreation Commission, ensuring volunteers will not have their freedom of speech violated as a condition of service. The First Amendment is the foundation of our society. Without it the United States ceases to exist and liberty goes poof like a candle blown out in the night. It’s critical for groups like the ACLJ to not only help regular Americans preserve their rights, but to win these battles so changes are made to the policies strangling them in the first place.
“Earlier this year, the ACLJ filed a lawsuit against WA State Park after our client, Gary Formhals – a former U.S. Navy Chief – was told to remove his pro-Trump political bumper stickers from his personal vehicle as a condition of his continued volunteer service and part-time employment with the park system. While Gary loved his work and had even received an ‘Award of Excellence’ for his service at the Park, Gary believed what the Park was asking him to do was wrong and that it violated his constitutional rights. He was right,” the ACLJ reported.
“Upon learning of the Park’s unlawful treatment of Gary, the ACLJ immediately filed suit against WA State Park and requested that the court declare the policy – as written and applied – unconstitutional and award Gary damages for the violation of these constitutional rights and payment for lost wages resulting from his forced resignation from his part-time position,” the article continued.
It added, “The First Amendment does not allow government officials to censor the speech of their employees unless the speech negatively impacts the efficient administration of the workplace. That was certainly not the case here. Even though Park officials knew about Gary’s political bumper stickers for years, they never did anything about them. It wasn’t until a visitor to the Park voiced her outrage about Gary’s bumper stickers, which she described as ‘insurrectionalist [sic],’ that the Park decided to give Gary an ultimatum: your speech or your job.”
The policy, which was applied to bumper stickers featured on Gary’s own private vehicle, was extremely broad, saying, “Do not express, display, broadcast, distribute or otherwise communicate to the public any personal opinions, messages or points of view while performing host duties, wearing the host vest, or while occupying the host site. This includes the display of expressive items such as stickers, flags, signs, and clothing.”
The ACLJ pointed out that with this current policy in place, an employee could not bother to have normal conversation with someone visiting the location, fearing it could potentially violate the prohibition on “personal opinions, messages, or points of view.” Due to the broad nature of the policy, even revealing your love for a favorite sports team could be considered a violation.
Not long after the organization filed the lawsuit, the WA State Park agreed to change the language of the policy and remove problematic language. The brand new policy says, “The highest priorities of volunteer hosts and the State Parks Volunteer Program are public service and ensuring all park visitors and members of the public feel respected, safe and welcomed at all times in state parks. Consistent with these priorities, host’s behavior, interaction and communication with the park visitors and members of the public must be professional, friendly, polite and in a safe matter, and consistent with State Parks policies and the laws of the State of Washington – including those relating to non-discrimination, anti-harassment and respect for persons.”
There are a lot of different ways that the radical left can attack our First Amendment right to free speech, even sometimes doing so unintentionally. Regardless, we must engage in legal battles when necessary in order to ensure that this right is not trampled on by those who want to control what is said. Far too much power can be stripped away from the people through such means.
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