It seems that public officials in Massachusetts are more willing than ever to blatantly violate the First Amendment, whether by forcing people to affirm a message that the government wants to promote or censoring people for expressing a message they want to suppress. Recently, officials in Newburyport violated free speech rights in both of these ways. Fortunately, MFI was there to step in and hold them accountable.
MFI Helps Obtain $10,000 Settlement and Apology from Mayor
Last fall, MFI received word from Citizens for Responsible Education (CRE), a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that advocates against indoctrination in schools, that Newburyport’s mayor tore down flyers that they had placed on the City’s public bulletin boards. His reasoning? The event that they advertised “was not in line with the City of Newburyport’s values of being an inclusive and welcoming community” because it covered the dangers of social-emotional learning methods. Yet, the mayor allowed flyers advertising an event on “White Fragility” and another advertising an LGBTQ+ youth support group to remain on those same bulletin boards. In other words, the mayor, an elected official, censored CRE’s protected speech because he disagreed with their message, while allowing messages he liked to stay up.
MFI immediately connected CRE with attorney Ken Tashjy, who drafted a demand letter outlining the mayor’s clear violation of CRE’s Constitutional right to free speech. MFI was also able to connect CRE and attorney Tashjy with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), who provided additional legal firepower.
After negotiating with the City, the parties reached a settlement this week in which the City agreed to 1) revise its posting policies to align them with Constitutional requirements, 2) post a public statement by the mayor for 14 days on the City’s website and Facebook page, admitting that his actions “should have better promoted the constitutionally protected free speech rights of [CRE],” and 3) pay CRE $10,000.00!
This settlement is a major victory for free speech in Massachusetts because it sends a clear message to all public officials: You don’t get to decide what people can and cannot say. If a government official has stopped you from speaking out for family values in a public forum, point them to this settlement and contact MFI. We are very thankful for the excellent work of attorney Tashjy and the ACLJ on this case.
MFI Prevails Upon Newburyport Public Schools to Drop MIAA “Diversity Pledge”
As school sports seasons started in August, we once again saw the mandatory “diversity, equity, and inclusion” pledge rear its ugly head. We reported on this pledge last year. The pledge requires students and coaches to affirm that they will unwaveringly support any and all DEI policies designed to promote “equity” within school settings, no matter how problematic they might be. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) mandated this pledge until MFI informed them that they unconstitutionally compelled speech, violating the First Amendment rights of students and coaches. The MIAA’s legal counsel quickly confirmed that there would be no consequences for not taking the pledge or the associated “implicit bias” training.
Nevertheless, some schools, including Newburyport, continued to require student-athletes to sign the pledge in order to play sports this fall. Acting on a tip from Newburyport parents, MFI immediately reached out to the athletic director for Newburyport Public Schools, explaining how they were violating the law.
We made it clear that if our concern was not addressed, parents might need to take legal action to vindicate their children’s rights. In response, Newburyport didn’t simply make the pledge optional – they dropped it entirely!
Kids shouldn’t be forced to pledge allegiance to far-left ideology just to play sports. MFI hopes this win will have an impact beyond Newburyport and will convince other schools to keep sports about sports – not use sports as a vehicle for indoctrination.
MFI would not be able to fight for free speech in the Commonwealth without your ongoing support. Will you join us in our work by giving a donation today?