Citizens Petition - link

Here is the link to the Citizens Petition to protect Free Speech:

http://www.actonforum.com/sites/default/files/Citizens_Petition.pdf

If the link doesn't work, the text is below:

Non-binding Resolution. Acton citizens’ First Amendment right to criticize the actions of elected and appointed officials.

WHEREAS the New England Town meeting is a cherished form of self-government which allows all Acton registered voters to participate in deciding the Town’s affairs;

WHEREAS true participation requires the right to freely state opinions including criticism of the decisions and action of elected and appointed officials;

WHERAS, as reported by Town Counsel Nina Pickering-Cook, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has confirmed that criticism of a public official constituted political speech and was “at the core of the speech that the First Amendment to the United State Constitution protects;”

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT

No town official shall prohibit lawful speech at town board meetings or Town Meeting including speech which criticizes elected or appointed officials by name or title for their decisions and/or the performance of their duties while in office.

SUMMARY

On December 4, 2017, Acton held a Special Town Meeting to consider several articles, including Warrant Article One, to support the funding of a school building study.

Prior to the presentation and debate, Acton's Town Moderator read a preamble which sought to deny the First Amendment rights of voters to discuss the official conduct of their elected School Committee representatives by name. This had a chilling effect on the debate. When one speaker attempted to criticize officials solely by title alone, he was also ordered by the Moderator to "move on."

While we support courteous and civil discourse, the concept of not allowing voters to criticize their elected officials at a public meeting, especially when those officials are asking for additional funding or authority, is unacceptable. Such criticism, while perhaps unpleasant, is sometimes necessary for a democracy to work. Officials who are elected or appointed agree to become public figures and thus cannot be immune to criticism at public speaking venues. Restrictions on the voters’ freedom to express their views only discourages further citizen participation that everyone supports.