First Amendment Violations

Recently, the Republican administration in Wisconsin took a step that seems to challenge the First Amendment to our Constitution.  According to a report in the New York Times, a Wisconsin agency that manages state lands has forbidden its employees from working on issues related to climate change while they are on the job.

Other than the obvious non sequitur inherent in this stance – since climate change quite possibly affects the lands the agency manages – there’s another significant question here.  Does such an order violate the First Amendment rights of these employees?  Let’s take a look at that amendment, the first in what’s known as the Bill of Rights, and a statement of what so many consider emblematic of our nation.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note the use of the word abridging.  Merriam –Webster Online defines abridge as meaning (among other things) to lessen the strength or effect of (something, such as a right).  Wisconsin’s constraint on these few of its employees was approved during a board meeting of the agency in question, called officially the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.  This Board manages more than $1 billion in assets, including 77,000 acres of land.

And by the way, such possible infringement of individuals’ freedom of speech isn’t limited to Wisconsin.  In what’s been described as Kafka as interpreted by Orwell and performed by Tallahassee's finest, a number of folks have stated that they were ordered not to use the terms climate change or global warming in any official communications or reports.


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