Take One Step Forward: Federal Courts Continue to Find that Volunteers are Shielded from Retaliation Based on Protected Speech Under the First Amendment
19 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2012 Last revised: 12 Dec 2012
Date Written: September 12, 2011
As an issue of first impression in the Fifth Circuit's jurisdiction, a United States district court in Texas considered whether it is impossible to state a claim for speech retaliation which involves the loss of a plaintiff's volunteer ministry rights and credentials. The court, in line with decisions from other federal courts and analogous Supreme Court cases, determined that being a volunteer is the type of governmental benefit or privilege the deprivation of which triggers First Amendment scrutiny, and it held that the volunteer chaplain stated a valid claim for retaliation. This article summarizes the law concerning retaliation against volunteers based on the exercise of their First Amendment rights, as well as analogous Supreme Court law. The article concludes that other federal courts that decide the issue, including the United States Supreme Court, will likely, and should, continue the pattern and decide that volunteers are protected from retaliation based on their exercise of First Amendment rights.
Keywords: speech retaliation, volunteers, First Amendment rights
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