The First Amendment Coalition today sent a letter today to the Cypress City Council explaining why the city’s ordinance restricting comment at council meetings violates freedom of speech. FAC is calling on the council to stop enforcing that part of the ordinance and amend it to comply with the U.S. Constitution.
The ordinance states, “Any person making personal, impertinent or slanderous remarks or who shall become boisterous while addressing the City Council shall be forthwith, by directive of the Presiding Officer, be [sic] barred from further audience at such meeting before the City Council unless permission to continue is granted by a majority vote of the City Council.”
As FAC’s Legal Director David Loy explained, the ordinance violates the First Amendment because it regulates speech based on viewpoint without requiring any actual disruption of a meeting. Indeed, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has held that virtually identical language is unconstitutional.
No matter how intemperate, criticism of government and public officials is the core of what the First Amendment protects. As one court said over 40 years ago, “In America, one who seeks or holds public office may not be thin of skin. One planning to engage in politics, American style, should remember the words credited to Harry S. Truman – ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’”
Read the letter.
More: Read FAC’s previous letter to the Cypress City Attorney condemning speech-chilling tactics aimed at a local resident who criticized the city on social media.