Claremont is beginning to beat a retreat. The schools are getting the message: you can’t engage in First Amendment retaliation..
Sometimes exaggeration can be the best teacher, so ponder this here little hyperbole with me. Suppose every time your political party lost its majority, you also lose your driver’s license, your right to airline travel, and your right to see a doctor. Your party lost the election, so you also pay ten times more for groceries, utilities, and homeowner’s insurance. If there’s a line at a fast food restaurant, you don’t get to order until all members of the winning party are served. Badges make this easier, so it’s ten years in jail if you fail to wear your loser’s badge. Let’s say you have a missing child and you want the police department to pursue an investigation, but you hear the officer on duty explain the post-election reality to you, “sorry, but the losing party only gets police resources if we don’t have any winning party business to handle.”
It’s only fair. You lost. This is a democracy, after all, and we need to protect majority rule.
If you think this is far-fetched, consider what a private company, AirBnB, now thinks is appropriate: banning even the relatives of someone engaged in wrong-think. Lauren Southern made a 2019 documentary on Africa-to-Europe trafficking. AirBnB didn’t like her perspective so she AND her relatives were banned from booking rooms. Sounds like shades of Jackie Robinson not being able to use certain hotels, right? Well, can you imagine if that mentality is allowed to prevail at government agencies and not just at a second-rate room-booking site? Political Jim Crow is bad enough when you can’t even book a dingy hostel with cockroaches and shared bathrooms, but if your own government blacklists you for political expression?
Early on in our First Amendment battle, I had to explain something to bewildered leftists, over and over again. It goes like this: “some things are not up for a vote.” Your right to defend your life, with arms if necessary, is not subject to majority rule. Your right to worship as you choose isn’t diminished by a new guy in the White House. Your right to speak your mind AND not suffer government retaliation doesn’t change if you are the only blue progressive in an all red city.
This protection of God-given rights is what separates America from the brutal, fickle mobocracies of history. You shouldn’t have to think too hard about this. Imagine being a 1937 Berlin Jew, pondering the glories of majority rule without a First Amendment. It’s a scary world out there. Without a few axiomatic protections, democracy is a raging bitch who will kill you the next time her mood changes–and she won’t lose any sleep over it.
In our case, when I violated leftist sensibilities, (you never ridicule a genocidal racist if he happens to be black), I was actually told, “you can say anything you want, but you can’t provide field trips for a public school if they don’t like your personal opinion.”) That’s right. Only people with approved ideologies can be a vendor to a public agency. “You lost the election. What makes you think you could have an opinion AND make a living?”)*
Well, sometimes the enormous expense and time consumed by a lawsuit serves as a kind of public instructor. Administrators, teachers, and social justice warriors in the schools are beginning to get the message. You can’t retaliate against employees or vendors on the basis of political opinions. Another case similar to ours, Dodge vs. Evergreen School District, just recently held that not even qualified immunity protects a school principal, if he retaliates against the political speech of a teacher, even when they are on the job. We never subjected students to contemporary political expression, so, it would seem, the same protections apply to us.
The point is: even hardcore ideological leftists are beginning to “get” it. The law — and the expense of the law — is striking a blow against cancel culture. Claremont has now re-approved Riley’s Farm as field trip vendor, but we plan to press our case further. Claremont must be enjoined by the judge to specifically refrain from First Amendment retaliation, not just against us, but against anyone. A public agency can’t engage in officially sanctioned hatred of free speech. Petty bureaucrats can’t be the tools of any cancel-culture warrior with a beef against this season’s villain-du-jour.
Now, in point of fact, the ruling party can be very sneaky and they can use any of a number of excuses to penalize a vendor. They can claim the busses cost too much or the fundraising isn’t sufficient or they lack staff, but they cannot cancel a vendor because he’s a member of the NRA or a MAGA supporter or a member of the ACLU for that matter–and most people would be surprised how much comes out in discovery, when an agency makes the mistake of thinking it can lie without penalty. As one of our attorneys observed, “people say the darndest things in text messages.” A friend of our cause caught Claremont in a blatant lie, with just a simple records request.
Bottom line, Mr. Civil Servant: if you hate the First Amendment, we are coming for you, and you won’t be able to hide.
Those of you who want to “protect democracy,” make sure you understand something. You can’t do that without protecting free speech.
This is an EXPENSIVE endeavor. Please help if you can..
* They claim conservatives are “fragile,” but in our case one parent worried that her black children wouldn’t feel welcome at a farm owned by someone who ridiculed Louis Farrakhan. That would be something like a white parent objecting to a field trip destination owned by someone who ridiculed Heinrich Himmler. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
Tags: Blacklisted, Claremont, Democracy, Dodge, Evergreen, Qualified Immunity, Winning
This post was written by Jim Riley