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Comments about ‘Readers' forum: Confused about free speech’

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Published: Tuesday, Aug. 30 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT

I support gay marriage. If you disagree with me, you have just as much right to express your opinion as I do. That's what freedom of speech means. It means nothing if it only applies to views which which I happen to agree.

Cole Thomas
Salt Lake City, UT

Many employers have the right to fire or suspend you over the things you say. You have no constitutional right to a job. Employers are not obligated to employ you. This is not a very complicated or ambiguous issue.

David King
Layton, UT

Freedom of speech, as I understand it, is the right to say whatever you want (with a few exceptions, like death threats) without any form of punishment or reprisal from the GOVERNMENT. It does not exempt us from the retaliation of our employers, parents, teachers, church leaders, Facebook friends, etc. Some may believe that freedom of speech means the government has to provide a forum for our speech, or protect us from all consequences of our speech, but I don't think that is the case. An employer has the right to terminate an employee for behavior, whether words or actions, that it disagrees with, just as an employee could quit over the statement of a boss. Neither one has had their freedom of speech infringed. It is the government that can take no part in punishing or censoring our freedom of speech.

ECR
Burke, VA

"Could someone please explain it to me because I just don't get it?"

The explanation is that a high school adminstration in Florida is violating the free speech rights of one of its teachers. The examples the author gave of free speech granted to others disgust most civic minded citizens yet we tolerate them because that is the bargain we have made living in this country. The author is correct to be confused and disgusted by the actions of this backward thinking school adminstration. If we don't protect everyone's right of free speech - even the ones we disagree with - the day will soon come when we won't have any rights of free speech.

Grover
Salt Lake City, UT

The teacher signed a contract saying he would not do certain things while working for his employer. He signed the contract in exchange for being employed. He violated the contract. His employer has the right to fire him at which time he regains his first amendment right to speak out on the issue albeit without a job.

RanchHand
Huntsville, UT

Lori;

His free speech was not infringed upon.

He does have to pay consequences for saying stupid things though. Freedom of speech doesn't grant immunity from consequences of said speech.

George
Bronx, NY

@ Lori B. Walker: If the teacher had posted a pornographic video that glorified violence, would you be upset if the school district had suspended him?

There are often arguments on these threads about prayer in school and other religious activities in various places. Those who think such things should be allowed quote the First Amendment and draw focus to the "Congress" part of it - claiming that school prayer is not an act of Congress and therefore is not prohibited by the First Amendment.

They also draw that fine distinction when discussing whether or not there is (or should be) a separation of Church and State.

Yet, reading the comment threads about this story, many of those same people seem to be claiming that the "Congress" distinction does not apply to free speech.

Interesting splitting of hairs....

three11stu
Saratoga Springs, UT

I wonder how people here would be reacting had the teacher said he supported gay rights and then got fired for that. I don't believe the support would have been there for him, and people defending his free speech.
Also, what if the teacher was on his facebook, on his own time, own computer, and stated that all of his students were idiots and he feared for our society in the future. Would you defend his speech then?

T-Jeff
Uinta Basin, Utah

David King said: "An employer has the right to terminate an employee for behavior, whether words or actions, that it disagrees with..".

If that is the case, then an employer has the right to terminate any employee that lives in a homosexual relationship if they disagree with that lifestyle, right? I think you and the people that recommended your comment had better re-think your position. Or are the rights we have limited to those that promote your agenda?

CHS 85
Sandy, UT

I didn't know the guy was in jail and his freedom taken away.

silas brill
Heber, UT

The teacher shouldn't lose his job, IMO.

But you should also object the Utah law that states any teacher that speaks favorably of homosexuality in any way can be fired doing so.

Mountanman
Hayden, ID

Free speech is only for liberals. Just ask Glenn Beck or anyone else who says things liberals don't like!

John Charity Spring
Alloway, NJ

This letter is the perfect response to those who claim that no harm comes from electing left-wing politicians. Indeed, great harm has come.

Left-wing politicians place left-wing jurists on the Supreme Court. These jurists then ignore the beliefs of the Founding Fathers and legislate from the Bench.

Freedom of speech protects speech, not lewd depictions of nudity. The Fathers would be appalled to learn how these judicial activists have turned the Constitution on its head to promote immorality.

If only it were true that pornography only effected the person who watched it. Unfortunately, it effects all of us by increasing the prevelance of divorce, illegitimacy, and sex crimes. Only the most perverse would claim that this is the purpose of the 1st Amendment.

ECR
Burke, VA

To Grover, Ranchhand, and George - my usual kindred spirits in the liberal fight against conservative nonsense, I think you are wrong in your analysis of this issue. The teacher in question didn't try to influence his students in the classroom, he didn't try to present his case in his curriculum. He just simply stated an opinion on his Facebook page. A member of the school administration claimed that his comments were public comments because he had 700 friends on Facebook. Really? Because the circle of your closest friends knows your deepest feelings about an issue then it becomes a matter of public discourse? I don't think so.

The author of this letter is incorrect to state that this is "a view held by a majority of Americans." In fact the opposite is true. But that doesn't change the fact that the teacher has a right, as a private citizen, to state his opinion. It is only when we defend that concept that we can truly say we believe in free speech.

And Silas Brill has made an excellent point illustrating how the concept should work both ways in every state in the union.

Darrel
Eagle Mountain, UT

The teacher's first amendment rights were not infringed. He was not held criminally liable, nor were criminal charges pressed against him. He was suspended for violating the terms of his employment contract, and what he did was just dumb.
There are times when I want to post something on my Facebook account, but do not because I know who might read this. If he had gay students, this was not the smartest thing to do.
If the teacher had posted pornographic or obscene material, then any reasonable person would expect the teacher to be fired and have criminal charges brought against him, even though pornography is protected under the first amendment.

Darrel
Eagle Mountain, UT

@T-Jeff,

If that is the case, then an employer has the right to terminate any employee that lives in a homosexual relationship if they disagree with that lifestyle, right? I think you and the people that recommended your comment had better re-think your position. Or are the rights we have limited to those that promote your agenda?
===========

He absolutely does if that is spelled out in his terms of employment, or if his lifestyle is interferring with his work. For example, it is perfectly legal to consume alcohol, but if my doing it in excess impedes my ability to work, I cannot expect to be employed very long. Or on the other side, working for the LDS church often requires a temple recommend, so someone engaging in homosexual behavior can be terminated.
In this case the teacher limited his ability to work, or effectiveness as a teacher, by placing what he did on Facebook. Teachers are far more "teachers" "mentors" would be a far more accurate description of what they do. Sutdents are going to be more hesitant to ask for the help they may need in life from him now.

glendenbg
Salt Lake City, UT

A relevant point that has yet to be raised concerns the teacher's role. A teacher, as employee of the school board is also (potentially) a spokesperson for the school district; he or she often speaks on behalf of the district. The reason it is unconstitional for teachers and school administrations to organize and lead school prayer is grounded in the notion that as employees of the public, such actions constitute a violation students' freedom of religion and amount to use of public resources to endorse specific faiths.

In this case, the question concerned whether or not the teacher was speaking in his official capacity as an employee of the district. Certainly, his statements would raise valid questions about his ability to treat glbt students with respect in his classroom, something the district, as his employer, has a right to explore. Calling it a violation of his freedom of speech is a red herring. He is free to speak his mind, but doing so raises questions about his job performance (in the same way a firefighter expressing admiration for arson might be troubling).

Happy Valley Heretic
Orem, UT

It isn't the free for all you imply, you have to be an adult to get porn, vote, and die for your country NOT any ol' age
I see people get carded for video games here in happy valley as often as they Id for smokes or beer.

What if a teacher in Utah posted the temple rites on his facebook and made fun of them.

How well do you think that would go over?

We can't all be shock jocks like glenn and sean, some people work in the real world.

Screwdriver
Casa Grande, AZ

That's because we don't have free speech in relation to employment, even if you aren't at work.

If I somehow got on national television and slammed my employer - I'd get fired.

Work contracts are not the same as the first amendment that guantees the GOVERNMENT won't arrest you or shut you up for opinion. Unless you make a threat or something like that obviously.

Or try telling your boss what you really think for once and see what happens.

George
Bronx, NY

@ ECR: I agree that it is important to respect and support the rights of people, even those I disagree with, to speak their opinion.

The school district this teacher works for has a policy that states that facebook and other social media outlets are not private and gives guidelines for posting on such sites.

This teacher was aware of the policy and posted inflammatory statements anyway. He has a right to post those statements, the school district has a right to see if the policy was violated.

The teacher was placed in an administrative position for 3 days while the issue was investigated, he was not fired, his pay was not reduced. At the end of that 3 days, it was determined no violation had occurred, and he returned to his normal duties.

Students at various schools have been suspended for outside activities, including posts on facebook and sexting.

This isn't about free speech - this is about school policies that regulate outside of school activities. IMNSHO, such policies are bogus and should be done away with entirely.

While they exist, they must be applied equally and those who willingly subject themselves to such policies are accountable for violations.

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