Federal Government Infringing on Employees’ Free Speech?
Article from Reason by Joe Setyon.
Employees of the federal government were warned this week that both praising and criticizing the Trump administration while on duty may be considered illegal. Federal workers are specifically barred from “advocating” for or against impeachment and from expressing support for the so-called “resistance” to President Donald Trump.
Such expressions could be considered violations of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that largely prohibits federal workers from engaging in political activity while on the clock or in their official capacity as a government employee. In a memorandum released Tuesday, the Office of Special Counsel (no relation to Robert Mueller’s Russia probe) Hatch Act unit explains what kind of speech should be avoided.
The memo goes on to warn against activity related to such words and phrases as “#resist,” “the resistance,” and “#resistTrump.” Such terms, the memo points out, are clearly associated with efforts to oppose the Trump administration’s policies. Since Trump has already announced his reelection bid, the Office of Special Counsel assumes that “the use or display of” those terms “and similar statements is political activity unless the facts and circumstances indicate otherwise.” The agency notes that there’s nothing wrong with using those words in a clearly apolitical context.
Some experts have expressed concern that the new directive could infringe on free speech. “This goes beyond past guidance about what partisan political activity is, and is more restrictive of speech of federal employees than past guidance that I’ve been able to find,” Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, tells The New York Times. “I think their legal analysis is wrong in this attempt to outlaw all discussion of impeachment of Trump in the federal workplace. Maybe that is a good idea, maybe that is a bad idea, but I don’t think that is what the Hatch Act requires.”
Read the entire article at Reason.