Each year, FIRE reviews thousands of potential cases involving individuals and groups whose rights are threatened. FIRE’s team of legal and advocacy experts have decades of experience protecting free speech both on and off college campuses. Learn more about FIRE’s civil liberties cases.
A group in Gainesville, Texas wanted a Confederate monument at the local courthouse removed. So like countless Americans have done before, they gathered and peacefully marched down the sidewalk in protest. Three days later, three of the protesters found themselves facing an arrest warrant for violating a Texas law that prohibits “obstructing a highway or passageway.”
Across the country, elected officials are increasingly enforcing so-called “decorum” policies in public meetings to silence criticism from concerned citizens. That’s exactly what happened at meetings of the Brevard County School Board in Florida. Elected school board officials repeatedly interrupted members of Moms for Liberty, a parental advocacy group, who were criticizing the Board. The officials ordered them to stop speaking on entire topics like school library books and even removed a member from the podium for complaining about a former teacher. The officials’ reasoning? The parents violated decorum policies banning “abusive,” “obscene,” and “personally directed” comments.
On March 20, 2023, Walter Wendler, the president of West Texas A&M University, abruptly canceled a drag show that a student group — Spectrum WT, an organization for LGBTQ+ students and their allies — was planning to hold at the public university.
On February 7, 2023, Villanova University told student Elisa Carroll she could not distribute and advocate the use of condoms and dental dams, even though she planned to do so from an off-campus sidewalk. On February 21, FIRE wrote Villanova explaining that although it’s a private institution not bound by the First Amendment, it must respect its commitment to encourage “the open exchange of ideas on a variety of subjects, including those that are controversial.” We explained this means the university cannot censor students’ advocacy, especially from off-campus locations where the university has no jurisdiction over students’ protected speech.
Are Americans free to film in our national parks? According to the majority in Price v. Garland, an opinion out of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the answer is no for commercial filming, regardless of the First Amendment. Under that ruling, anyone can be fined and even jailed for taking a selfie video in a national park, if they later upload it online and earn ad revenue for views.
If you are facing retaliation over protected speech, or if you are a college student or faculty member whose First Amendment rights may have been violated, reach out to FIRE to learn more about how we can protect your rights.