Sunday, October 3, 2010

(sort-of) Free Speech

A little over a month ago, Laura Schlessinger left her long tenure as a radio talk show host, citing a loss of her First Amendment rights.  She had dropped the N-bomb 11 times.
In April of 2007 Don Imus lost his job after making racial insults against the Rutgers University woman's basketball team.  After he was fired there were cries of First Amendment rights.

And right now, public employee, Andrew Shirvell in the Michigan Attorney General's office has taken up protesting against a gay college studentwith signs saying hes a racist liar and a blog where he has defaced pictures.  The AG won't fire him saying it's his first amendment rights.

The first amendment as it applies to speech says "Congress shall make no law ... infringing on the freedom of speech..."  We can protest, we can tell people what we like or don't like about our government, we can even wear funny shirts if we'd like.
However, the difference between a person's 1st amendment rights and their right to have a particular job is that one is constitutionally protected and the other is not.  We have the right to say what we want - to a limit.  But we don't have the right to be paid for it.

Imus and Dr. Schlessinger were radio talk show hosts.  It is in the interest of their bosses that they not do anything with that show to defame the radio station.  They do have the right to express any opinion about anyone they see fit, even if others see it as offensive.  The government can't do anything about it, but their boss can.

In the case of the Michigan AG's office, even if the employee wasn't committing libel by writing that student was a racist and a liar. Or if he wasn't invading his privacy by videotaping him at home.  Even if he wasn't doing these things, his employment agreement states that he can't "engage in acts unbecoming a public servant".  He can, and in my opinion, should be fired.


  1. Just playing devil's advocate: would the MI AG office have more of a hot potato on its hands if they didn't build a credible case to dismiss him? I'm not saying they don't have one, but in terms of HR processes, employment laws, I'm wondering if the AG's office is more hobbled than they'd like to be with regards to Mr. Shirvell?

    If it's of any consolation, it looks like Mr. Shirvell, who is now taking personal leave from his position, will be the subject of a disciplinary hearing when he returns to work. Here's another blog you might enjoy:

  2. Thanks for the blog link and I didn't think of the steps that need to be taken to fire a state employee. The AG defended the heck out of him though, at least until it became to politically difficult.


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