What's the worst that could happen when you complain about local government or news on your Facebook status? For most of us, we'll be unfriended. But for one local civil rights activist, a judge's penalty was much higher.
Majed Moughni heard about a settlement in a class action lawsuit against McDonald's, and deeply disagreed about how the settlement money was spent. He spoke out about the issue on his Facebook account.
Like so many of us who share our opinions with friends on the internet, the worst that should have happened was a couple of irritating comments from an old high school friend.
A judge called Majed into court and issued an order forbidding him to speak on all issues related to the lawsuit settlement. Not only that, but the Court restricted his future speech as well, bizarrely banning him from speaking on the order which bans him from speaking.
The judge could have simply banned Majed from saying specific statements the Court finds to be patently false, but instead it paralyzed his ability to work on these issues or speak about an ongoing matter of public concern.
A classic example of government abuse and unconstitutional prior restraint, this gag order goes far beyond any of the acceptable limits the government may impose on our expression.
The core purpose of the First Amendment is to prevent the government from censoring our speech, especially interferring with our potential to speak out in the future. That's why we filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of all Michigan citizens, pointing out that issuing an unconstitutional gag order against Majed really threatens free speech itself.
Freedom cannot survive when those in power ignore the First Amendment to punish and censor speech they dislike or criticism they would rather not hear. We don't need permission from our government to exercise our fundamental right to disagree, even with court settlements.