A state board’s apparent retaliation against an Oregon man who investigated why his wife got a red-light traffic ticket made a national list highlighting outrageous breaches of free speech rights.
It’s one of seven “2018 Jefferson Muzzles” – an annual focus by the Thomas Jefferson Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, that celebrates “the birth and ideals of its namesake by calling attention to those who would censor free expression.”
This year’s recipients included the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying. Among others in the group: U.S. Capitol police who ordered reporters not to record arrests of protesters, a Missouri high school that removed two gay students’ statements from a yearbook and a Houston high school principal who punished a student for sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance.
In Oregon, Mats Järlström of Beaverton repeatedly challenged Oregon’s traffic-signal timing formula. The state engineering board subsequently claimed Järlström had illegally used the title of “engineer” and fined him $500.
Last year, the Oregon Department of Justice acknowledged that the board violated Järlström’s free speech.
The Muzzles citation says: “Mats Järlström never claimed to be a state-licensed engineer.He merely identified an existing problem, studied it, and offered his findings to those in a position to rectify it. The First Amendment guarantees him the right to debate any and all subjects — even those of a technical nature. By investigating and punishing Järlström, the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying sought to bestow upon a privileged few a monopoly over the exchange of technical ideas. As a result, we bestow upon them a 2018 Jefferson Muzzle.”
Järlström’s civil rights lawsuit is pending in federal court in Portland. Järlström, along with the national Institute for Justice, sued members of the state engineering board, contending that state law and the board’s actions amount to an “unconstitutional ban on mathematical debate.”