As my friend, the constitutional attorney says, “There’s a reason the First Amendment is the FIRST amendment in both our state and national constitutions!” It is the most important. That reason has a lot to do with the tyranny the founding fathers were escaping in forming our country. They were seeking freedom from rulers who gave them no say in their taxes, no religious freedom, no ability to speak their truth.

In government meetings you cannot tell people how to behave. You can only curb behavior that disrupts the meeting. This is an area where people often confuse the amendment’s application.

The first amendments protect us from a government that would not allow these rights. Unlike government institutions, private organizations (unless they receive government funding) MAY abridge speech. Where the government cannot tell us how we may and may not speak to government and what we may or may not say, private organizations CAN make rules governing etiquette in public meetings. In non-government settings we do not have freedom of speech. Twitter CAN set rules for engagement, even cut you off. Your government cannot. The Rotary Club CAN ban language they don’t like. The government cannot.