Freedom of speech is at risk in Pa.
TO THE EDITORS:
Advocates attempting to forward their mission rely heavily on the Constitution's First Amendment -- which includes freedom of speech. Having recently moved to Pennsylvania, I never knew how really important the First Amendment was to all Americans.
Here in America, when we see wrongdoing, we should have the right to question it, no matter who it's about or in what state you reside.
In Pennsylvania, however, it seems if you ask an official too many questions, you may eventually end up embroiled in a SLAPP lawsuit.
The term SLAPP virtually explains itself. It stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It's a lawsuit that's intended to censor, intimidate and silence effective critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense, thus forcing them to abandon speaking their mind.
Many states have outlawed SLAPP lawsuits because they find them unconstitutional. If we don't do something to end these encumbering suits, we will find ourselves without the ability to state our opinion in Pennsylvania.
You never know when you may find yourself in need of free speech. But if we, as a community, don't do something to stop the lawsuits now, when you attempt to rely upon your First Amendment rights, justice will have been sued out of your reach.
Currently, Lancaster County has no humane officers. The primary duties of a humane officer is to prosecute cases of animal cruelty. Humane officers are considered law enforcement, but they are not protected by sovereign immunity as are other branches of law enforcement.
How can a humane officer do his/her job effectively if the potential of a lawsuit is a constant threat?
I'm convinced there is a reason why this amendment was made first in our Constitution. Without the right to free speech, we really don't have any rights at all and, if we did, they couldn't be expressed.
I believe every public official should have total transparency and, if a statement or question is made about them, they should try to fix the problem instead of attempting to SLAPP the citizen, or in this case, humane officer, into silence.