The rights to free speech, assembly, worship, and a press are critical to an informed and engaged public. The ACLU of Maryland is a vigilant defender of the First Amendment because we believe the free exchange of ideas is among the greatest instruments that communities that are not provided adequate resources, wield. As forums for public discourse evolve on electronic platforms, upholding free speech remains a cornerstone of our work.

Freedom of speech is so integral to democracy that its protection is assured within the very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has written that this freedom is “the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.” Methods of publishing, assembly, worship, and censorship are quickly changing, and the ACLU of Maryland works tirelessly to ensure that our constitutional protections keep pace.

A quote from Nick Taichi Steiner, senior staff attorney, that says, "The ACLU of Maryland commends and supports CAIR's effort to protect the First Amendment rights of teachers in Montgomery County."

Free Speech for Speakers in Support of Palestine

The ACLU of Maryland is monitoring and taking action to support individuals and organizations who experience First Amendment violations for speaking in support of the rights of Palestinians, against the violence in Gaza, and who criticize the actions and policies of the Israeli government and the U.S. government’s involvement in the crisis. We have particular concerns for students and civil servants who have been silenced and even punished.

Free Speech for Supporting the Rights of Palestinians

Dana Vickers Shelley is inside of a school library and holding a sign that says, "I read banned books." She is holding a copy of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Dana has short gray and black hair, is wearing cat-eye glasses and earings, and is smiling.

Banning Books Is Unconstitutional

Book bans are unconstitutional. Adults and children have a constitutional right to be able to access a wide inventory of books, materials, and resources from a myriad of perspectives to foster knowledge and understanding about our diverse world. Nearly 3,500 books have been banned across the country last school year. This is happening in Maryland too. These bans target books about race and racism, and the histories and lived experiences of Black people, other people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. Frank Patinella, senior public policy advocate at the ACLU of Maryland, testified during the 2024 Maryland legislative session to support the Freedom to Read Act (SB 738).

Read Frank's Testimony

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"Use your power. SPEAK UP!” — Ashley Overbey

After finding that her apartment had been burglarized, Ashley Overbey called the Baltimore Police Department for help. But instead of getting help, she was badly beaten and tased by officers much larger than her, the very officers who had sworn to protect her. Ashley sued, seeking justice, and won. But the city and police department required that she be silent about the incident to reach a settlement, while the city publicly mischaracterized what happened and disparaged Ashley. Gag orders on survivors of police abuse are all-too-commonly used by police departments. It’s not just Baltimore.


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Support Students' Free Speech Rights

In February, Mariana Taylor silently and respectfully knelt adjacent to her desk when the Pledge of Allegiance was recited during her morning homeroom class. She was confronted by her teacher, who told Mariana that the "rules" require that she must stand for the Pledge. "The Supreme Court has been very clear that students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse door," said Jay Jimenez, legal program specialist for the ACLU of Maryland.