Google wins first round in fight with conservative radio host
Round one in the Prager University v. Google legal battle went to Google last month when a federal judge dismissed conservative radio host Dennis Prager’s lawsuit against the internet behemoth and its subsidiary YouTube. In her March 26 decision, District Judge Lucy Koh left open the option for Prager to file an amended complaint on appeal.
In October 2016, YouTube tagged some of PragerU’s videos with a “restricted mode” designation, denying access for viewers who filter out objectionable content. Prager sued, accusing YouTube and Google of viewpoint discrimination and demonetizing the videos.
Prager will appeal as far as the U.S. Supreme Court “if that is what it takes to ensure every American’s freedom of speech is protected online” said Marissa Streit, CEO of PragerU, in a statement responding to the decision. —B.P.
Is humanism a religion?
A convicted murderer won his lawsuit demanding the North Carolina Department of Public Safety recognize his declared faith, humanism, as a religion within the state’s prison system. Backed by attorneys from the American Humanist Association (AHA), inmate Kwame Jamal Teague filed suit in 2015 after the state refused him the same accommodations as other recognized religions.
In his decision last week, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle noted the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2015 recognized humanism as a “faith group.” AHA attorneys declared the ruling a “monumental victory.”
But lawmakers and government administrators continue to debate the question of humanism’s role in the realm of religion within government institutions. Earlier last month, the U.S. Navy announced it had, for a second time, rejected a humanist’s application to serve as a Navy chaplain. —B.P.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan must establish rules for his Facebook page that promote free discourse under a settlement with four plaintiffs who claimed the Republican politician blocked them from accessing his page. The American Civil Liberties Union took up their complaint and filed suit in August, arguing the governor’s actions violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit alleges Hogan blocked 450 people, all critics of his policies, from his Facebook account between 2015 and 2017. The complaint follows a series of lawsuits against government officials nationwide for blocking critical followers from social media accounts. Plaintiffs argue sites like Facebook and Twitter serve as virtual public forums that must remain open to all.
As part of the settlement announced Tuesday, Hogan admitted no wrongdoing but established a new social media policy that bars viewpoint discrimination, creates a “Constituent Message Page” on another social media platform for additional communication with the governor, and creates a process for contesting deleted posts or media access.
The State of Maryland must pay plaintiffs $65,000 as part of the settlement. —B.P.
Air Force officer acted in good faith
Col. Leland B.H. Bohannon did not discriminate against a subordinate when he declined in May 2017 to sign an optional congratulatory document for the same-sex partner of a retiring airman, U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Monday in a letter exonerating Bohannon.
The retiring airman filed a discrimination complaint and a review board found Bohannon guilty of unlawful discrimination. But the Air Force Review Boards Agency granted Bohannon’s appeal and concluded he “had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs,” Wilson said in the letter to Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.
“The decision on appeal applied current Air Force policy and the law,” Wilson wrote. “It is an example of a situation in which protected, and potentially competing, interests must be carefully examined and resolved.” —B.P.