In March, The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution and Limited Government held a hearing entitled “Free Speech: The Biden Administration’s Chilling of Parents’ Fundamental Rights.” Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom with Alliance Defending Freedom, testified in support of parental rights before the subcommittee.
Langhofer, who has extensive experience in civil litigation and constitutional law, represents students and faculty at public high schools and colleges, defending their First Amendment rights. He also works closely with Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Parental Rights. Some of Langhofer’s successful cases include Denton v. Hecht, where he defended a Florida State University student who was removed from his position as Student Senate President simply for sharing his Catholic views in a private group chat, and Cross v. Loudoun County Public Schools, where he defended an elementary school gym teacher who was suspended for peacefully sharing his views on a proposed policy at a public school board meeting.
In his testimony, Langhofer explained that the fundamental difference between a free society and a totalitarian one is based on whether the State exists to serve the people or whether the people exist to serve the State and that this is often determined by who has primary authority of the children: parents or the government. Langhofer asserted that our Constitution answers that question unambiguously: “The child is not the mere creature of the state.”
Reminding the committee of the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the right to dissent, Langhofer quoted, “Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”
Langhofer described how the Biden administration has acted to curtail these rights in many forms, but specifically in two areas: Attorney General Merrick Garland’s 2021 memorandum and the proposed rule redefining sex in Title IX. He detailed how when parents and teachers voiced their dissent against radical and unscientific teachings about sex and gender, the Biden administration used events of dissent in Loudoun County to produce a letter generalizing parental opposition as “acts of malice” that are “the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.” Following those events, AG Garland issued a memorandum mobilizing federal law enforcement against parents in a broad sweep that had an unquestionably chilling effect on parents. After silencing the parents, the administration moved to “codify the very policies they were objecting to by proposing to redefine sex in Title IX to include sexual orientation and gender identity” and “expressly blesses policies that require schools to engage in social transitions for students even while hiding this from their parents.”
Langhofer cited several cases litigated by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of students, parents, and teachers opposing these policies. In all of these cases, Langhofer says the schools cite title IX as a basis for their coercive actions. He concluded, “The Biden administration’s actions are both chilling and outright curtailing parents’ most fundamental rights,” and urged the subcommittee to “use all means at its disposal to counter this executive overreach.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.
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