Protecting Speech for Some, but not Others
In August 2013, Gov. Christie signed a law1 barring employers from demanding prospective employees’ login information for social networking sites as a condition of employment. Access to login information would have created a chilling effect by giving employers unfettered access to their private activities on their social media accounts.
Gov. Christie’s support of free speech for employees did not however extend to New Jersey Transit employee Derek Fenton,2 who was fired for burning the pages of a Quran at a rally outside of work hours in 2010. Gov. Christie supported the agency’s decision to fire Fenton, who eventually won his job back after the ACLU-NJ sued.3
And when it came to the rights of Occupy Trenton, a group protesting social and economic inequality in 2012, Gov. Christie explained that he understood the motivation behind the protests,4 yet he stood silent when state officials unlawfully dispersed Occupy Trenton from Veterans Park and illegally seized their personal property. A state judge eventually ruled in favor of Occupy Trenton’s free speech rights.5
Attempts to Censor Free Speech
After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, Gov. Christie floated the idea of banning retailers from selling video games with “adult ratings” to minors without parental permission.6 The proposal would not have gone far, as the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled that video games are a form of protected free speech. Ultimately, Gov. Christie pushed for and signed a bill (S2715)7 without the civil liberties pitfalls, mandating the Department of Education to distribute pamphlets in schools with strategies to limit exposure to media violence.
In the run-up to New Jersey hosting the Super Bowl, Gov. Christie signed legislation (A3352) aimed at curbing advertisements for human trafficking. The bill was so broad that it would have restricted constitutionally protected speech. A federal court prevented that part of the law from taking effect, ruling that it violated the Constitution.8