FAC Urges Orange School Board Member to Retract Statement Threatening Speech Rights

Contact: fac@firstamendmentcoalition.org

The First Amendment Coalition is calling on John Ortega, vice president of the Orange Unified School District Board of Education, to retract statements that threatened fundamental rights of civic participation. At the board’s January 19, 2023 meeting, Mr. Ortega characterized criticism from members of the public as “slanderous comments that you need to be very careful of, because you could be liable for these slanderous comments, so you need to be very careful of that, so I’m warning you about that.”

FAC Legal Director David Loy sent a letter to Mr. Ortega explaining that his threats violated the First Amendment and California law. As Loy wrote, “critique of elected officials is democracy, not defamation.” The letter asks Mr. Ortega to disavow his statements and publicly affirm his commitment to the First Amendment.

Read the letter below.