Friday, October 26, 2007

Framingham Fight on Free Speech

There's an interesting fight brewing in Framingham that has implications well beyond the town borders. The Southern Middlesex Opportunity Council has filed suit in federal court against several individuals, saying that there is a coordinated effort to keep certain social services out of the town.

Regardless of whether this is true, one part of the lawsuit is rather disturbing. Among the names of the defendants are a couple of private citizens who spoke out on privately-run electronic forums. Being someone who runs such a forum, this has me a little concerned.

I haven't read the emails and posts, so I can't say whether the speech was hateful or otherwise, but if the SMOC is accusing the town of this kind of coordinated effort, does it have the right to rope in citizens who speak out on the subject?

The editorial board of the Metro West Daily News doesn't think so:

The inclusion of private citizens in this suit is even more regrettable. Yes, some of the comments posted on Web sites and included in e-mails are inflammatory, hateful, or inaccurate. But we don't need the First Amendment to protect speech that gets no one mad; if speech that offends a powerful organization isn't protected, no one's speech is really free.
You may want to read the articles covering the topic. The first one is here, and the one focused on the electronic message board is here. You may also want to check out the Framingham Neighbors discussion board.

Certainly something worth watching.

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