Library reverses course, now agrees not to interfere with free speech

 May 18, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A California library has reversed its course and now is agreeing not to interfere with the free speech rights of others after a lawsuit filed by the ADF brought its practices into focus.

The organization reported this week that the library was accused of censoring presentations by individuals who reserved space in the library, but whose political positions and opinions disagreed with that of the library staff.

A settlement now is having the library adopt a policy that staff members "shall not interfere" with such presentations, and they will "curtail" disruptions to that speech.

"Women have the right to speak about their concerns regarding men competing in their sports, and public officials have a constitutional duty to uphold that right regardless of whether they agree with the point of view presented," said ADF spokesman Tyson Langhofer.

"Shutting down discussions about biological differences between men and women is, sadly, a growing trend among activists seeking to erase women and harm children. While they should never have shut down the event, Yolo County library officials are right to change course and enact policies that align with the First Amendment. We are hopeful other public officials—whether at libraries, schools, or anywhere else—see this as an opportunity to take a strong stance for the speech and assembly rights of all Americans."

The library, besides adopting the new position on free speech and protecting speakers, also agreed to pay $70,000 in damages and fees.

It also agreed to allow Moms for Liberty-Yolo County, the Independent Council on Women's Sports, the California Family Council, and others to use the library like other groups.

At issue in the legal action were the library's First Amendment violations.

The report on the settlement said, "On Aug. 20, the Yolo County chapter of Moms for Liberty hosted an event called 'Forum on Fair and Safe Sport for Girls' in the Blanchard Community Room at the Mary L. Stephens–Davis Branch Library in Yolo County. The event featured several speakers, including Sophia Lorey, the outreach director for California Family Council and a former collegiate athlete. A few minutes into Lorey's speech about men participating in women’s sports, protesters began to interrupt her, shouting her down and accusing her of 'misgendering.'"

The ADF explained that the library's regional manager informed Lorey if she continued to refer to male athletes as men, she would have to leave, and he would shut down the event.

She ended her speech, but that manager then shut down the event entirely after another speaker had just started.

"This settlement is a clear victory for free speech and the First Amendment," said Alan Gura, of the Institute for Free Speech, which joined in the fight.

"Yolo County officials tried to silence speakers and shut down an event because the ideas expressed there didn’t comport with the officials’ preferred ideology. As a result of this lawsuit, Yolo County has now agreed to respect the right of all Americans to freely express their views in public spaces without fear of government censorship."

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