Compelled Speech Crops Up Again

In Epping, Tom Sutliffe, a taxpayer, brought a case against both the Board of Selectmen and School Board for asking voters to vote for their budgets in materials paid for by the taxpayers. This is known as “compelled speech” and is unconstitutional. Tom drilled his pro se case in perfect fashion. His federal case law was relevant and on point while the school’s attorneys pitiful excuse for printing advocacy of a political position is claimed to be vested in education law RSA 198:4 as follows:

“The school board of each district in its annual report shall state in detail the additional sums of money, if any, which will be required during the ensuing fiscal year for the support of the public schools, for the purchase of textbooks, scholars' supplies, flags and appurtenances, for the payment of the tuition of the pupils in the district in high schools and academies in accordance with law, and for the payment of all other statutory obligations of the district.”

Slim excuse for not providing for an opposite opinion in a publicly printed and paid for document as explained in Derry Taxpayers v. Derry (NH) as well as Bonner v. Lyons (Fed).

In any case Judge Robert E. K. Morrill ignored the responsibility of the school to print both sides after taking a side itself and ruled against the taxpayers and residents of NH.

Compelled speech in its current cycle – we see a spate of this every five or six years – is the new frontier of local government. As ballooning budgets and unnecessary new construction bonds are becoming harder to pass, local officials are reaching out to voters at taxpayer expense. The scheme to win a new right to violate our first amendment rights is a two part one.

First: Get sympathetic (see also: pathetic) judges to allow compelled speech at the Superior Court level by ignoring the law and hoping taxpayers do not have the funds to go back to Federal courts like was done in the Derry case.

Second: Start a statewide agenda of a board-by-board push for UNANIMOUS decisions by all board members no matter what the individual opinions of the officials are. This closes the door to any single school board member publicly expressing an opposing view of a bond or budget.

Ask your own school board members if they are not pressured to come to a group consensus on budgets and bonds. This plan is designed to bypass the responsibility board members have to voters and taxpayers in favor of moving the school “forward” with education group-think, the single biggest problem with education today.

Taxpayers need legislation in New Hampshire to directly address compelled speech issues. Make sure your legislator is aware that if schools and towns want millions of dollars from taxpayers they must allow those same taxpayers a voice in the process.

Ed Naile
Coalition of NH Taxpayers