Free Speech

Free Speech a Major Theme at ALEC’s States and Nation Policy Conference

Free speech was a major theme throughout this year’s ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit, so the Center to Protect Free Speech was very busy. The Center was hard at work to present opportunities for attendees to gain knowledge regarding donor privacy, campus speech, academic freedom, and commercial speech.

On Wednesday, attendees learned about threats to donor privacy through the workshop, “Your Name on a Government List: Disclosure Demands that Threaten Donor Privacy.” Todd Graves of Graves Garrett provided an introduction to the issue of donor disclosure and the overregulation of speech as “political speech.” He was followed by Sean Parnell of the Philanthropy Roundtable, who explained why the disclosure of donors to nonprofits threatens individual privacy and the bottom lines of charitable organizations. New Mexico State Representative Yvette Herrell shared her experience in New Mexico pushing back against a troubling donor disclosure proposal and examined the legislative arguments that are most effective.

On Thursday, the Center to Protect Free Speech paired up with the American City County Exchange (ACCE) to learn about “1st Amendment Speech at the Local Level.” Braden Boucek of the Beacon Center of Tennessee discussed the distinctions of regulating the content of speech, what a sign might say, versus the form that speech comes in, the size of a sign. Jeffrey Schwab of the Liberty Justice Center went over particular case examples like regulations against advertisements for short term rentals or in ride sharing vehicles. Karen Harned, Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center provided the perspective of small business owners who seek to market their businesses, while meeting local sign ordinances.

On Friday morning, attendees learned about challenges to free speech on campus through the workshop “Free Speech, Academic Freedom and Intellectual Diversity on Campus.” Sarah Ruger of the Charles Koch Institute introduced the panel and provided an overview of the issue. Dr. Samuel Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College then opened, explaining how anti-free speech the college environment has become for both students and professors. Tyler Coward of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education explained how litigation is being used to fight back against free speech violations on campus. Finally, Center to Protect Free Speech Director Shelby Emmett explained the numerous legislative model policies being introduced across the country. Shelby also explained the best ways attendees could work to protect free speech, encourage academic freedom and promote intellectual diversity on campus without sacrificing the principles of limited government and institutional autonomy.

On Friday afternoon, Shelby Emmett was pleased to speak to legislative staff from 17 states about campus speech and donor privacy. It was wonderful to meet so many legislative staff from across the country who are passionate about protecting the free speech rights of their constituents. The Center looks forward to being a resource to these staffers as they encounter free speech issues in their own states.

The Center to Protect Free Speech would like to thank all of the panelists for taking the time to attend the ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit and participate in this excellent opportunity to educate ALEC members on the threats to free speech that they face in every state.


In Depth: Free Speech

Freedom of speech is paramount for the American system of government and American culture. Born from revolution, American society has been created, evolved and progressed based in part, on the First Amendment. More specifically, free speech allows individual’s to use their own voice to ensure “We the People” would control …

+ Free Speech In Depth