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Monday, January 30, 2023
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Federal Appeals Court Rules MAGA Hat is Free Speech

'That some may not like the political message being conveyed is par for the course... '

(Jacob Bruns, Headline USA) The 9th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals ruled recently that the right to wear a red “Make America Great Again” cap falls under the protection of the First Amendment.

A middle school teacher in Washington state, Eric Dodge, had continually worn one of the iconic red Trump hats to school training sessions, but his school repeatedly threatened to discipline him, Reuters reported.

The court noted specifically that Dodge had not caused any disruption by wearing the cap to a teachers-only training session. The decision by the 9th Circuit was a partial reversal of a prior District Court decision, which had sided with the school.

The school’s Principal, Caroline Garrett, allegedly “took adverse employment action against [Dodge] when she stated that the next time plaintiff had his MAGA hat, they would have a meeting in which he would need his union representative.”

Per Dodge, Garrett also called him a racist and a homophobe for supporting one of the most popular political candidates in American history.

The Circuit Court found “no evidence of actual or tangible disruption to school operations had been presented,” and also noted that the expression of political opinions is divisive, but is also a fact of life.

“That some may not like the political message being conveyed is par for the course and cannot itself be a basis for finding disruption of a kind that outweighs the speaker’s First Amendment rights. Therefore, Principal Garrett’s asserted administrative interest in preventing disruption among staff did not outweigh plaintiff’s right to free speech.”

In the court’s view, Garrett has no right to censor the political views of her teachers, especially where children are not involved.

“[A]ny violation of plaintiff’s First Amendment rights by Principal Garrett was clearly established where longstanding precedent held that concern over the reaction to controversial or disfavored speech itself does not justify restricting such speech,” the court wrote.

“For these reasons, the panel reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Principal Garrett.”

The court did, however, drop Dodge’s charges of harassment against the Evergreen School District.

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