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Katie Medart (left) and Rachel Sager (right), founders of the "I Resolve" movement.

Diverse groups unite to support freedom of speech, religion for Oregon educators

Numerous friend-of-the-court briefs filed with 9th Circuit

Friday, Sep 15, 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. – A number of First Amendment advocates, a feminist group, and medical professionals who care for children have united to protect freedom of speech and religion by filing friend-of-the-court briefs in support of two Oregon educators.

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and Pacific Justice Institute representing Rachel Sager (formerly Damiano) and Katie Medart filed their opening brief earlier this month with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit urging it to protect their freedom of speech and religion. The two educators filed a lawsuit in 2021 against Grants Pass School District 7 after officials suspended and then terminated them for voicing—on their own online platform—their opinions about local, state, and national policy.

“Public schools can’t retaliate against educators for expressing opinions on fundamental issues of public concern—like gender identity education policy—that implicate the freedoms of teachers, parents, and students,” said ADF Legal Counsel Mathew Hoffmann. “Educators don’t give up their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs, especially when it comes to education policy, a topic on which they are uniquely qualified to speak. Teachers should be free to advocate for the good of their students. We are grateful for the many groups and individuals who have united in support of these fundamental freedoms.”

“PJI is privileged not only to co-represent these brave educators, but to now be joined by leading voices from across the freedom movement,” said Brad Dacus, president and founder of PJI. “Together, we have presented overwhelming evidence and constitutional argument showing why these courageous citizens should not have been punished for contributing to the nationwide dialogue on gender.”

Sager and Medart have been in the education field for many years, including at North Middle School in Grants Pass. Sager served as assistant principal, and Medart taught science there. Together, they started a grassroots organization “I Resolve” to propose gender identity education policy proposals that respect the rights of students, parents, and teachers. The educators were forced to file a lawsuit against the school district for violating their rights to free speech and religious freedom. The district court ruled against them, prompting their appeal.

“Outsized emotional reactions by others are not a valid basis for diminishing protections for women under the law,” the Women’s Liberation Front wrote in its brief.

“[P]ublic schools are nurseries of democracy and, as such, they have a significant interest in protecting speech like the [I Resolve] Video,” wrote the Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies in its brief. “Schools should help children like the [school district’s] middle schoolers develop proper habits of mind – including tolerance for ideas they disagree with – for when they later become adults. Students, and society at large, are disserved when schools fail to do so.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Friend-of-the-court briefs filed with U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit