On Tuesday, May 23, in a victory for everyone’s free speech rights, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of Franklin, Tennessee, unanimously withdrew the proposed Community Decency Policy, which would have unconstitutionally banned conduct that “does not align with generally accepted community standards of behavior.”
Hundreds of advocates in Franklin and across the nation took action by writing to the board, urging its members to vote against the policy.
FIRE explained the numerous problems with the proposed policy, including its overly vague language. We highlighted the danger to expressive rights of allowing the same city government officials who imposed the policy to determine when and how to enforce it.
FIRE got the message out about the issue, making it easy for friends of free expression to contact the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Hundreds of advocates in Franklin and across the nation took action by writing to the board, urging its members to vote against the policy.
Advocates reminded the board that the policy could give the city free reign to stifle any kind of expression it wanted and that, in doing so, it would promote a culture of censorship.
The board's decision to withdraw this unconstitutional policy was a good one, and they should be commended for ultimately doing the right thing. The decision affirms what Americans everywhere know: Governments cannot simply silence speech they deem unacceptable. We hope the story of Franklin serves as a reminder to governments across America not to enact policies that violate the Constitution.
While we are appreciative of the board’s decision to abandon this idea, it has said that it may revisit the issue of whether to regulate public expression in the fall. If it does so, FIRE will revisit the issue as well, and we’ll be ready to act again if necessary.
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