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Orem librarians pleased over policy changes following censorship claims

Posted at 4:54 PM, Jun 13, 2024

OREM, Utah — Orem has adopted new policies that aim to protect employee free speech after librarians claimed the city was censoring them. After defending city librarians for the past two years, free speech attorneys say they’re pleased about “noticeable improvements” and city cooperation.

Just one year ago, the city received a letter threatening a lawsuit that accused the local government of censorship.

"All of this started in 2022 when the city of Orem banned Pride displays during Pride month in the library," explained attorney Daniel Ortner.

It wasn’t just Pride that was banned. Ortner, with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, claimed other heritage month displays were also disallowed.

The Utah Library Association (ULA) criticized the city, as did the local librarians.

"The city essentially retaliated by banning all library employees from participating in the Utah Library Association, or at least from taking time off of work to go to ULA events and having their fees paid, which has been a benefit they’ve had for a long time," said Ortner.

The attorney added that under the old social media policy, employees could be disciplined if they posted anything that could quote “discredit or disparage” the city.

"We’ve been working with them over the past year to implement a new social media policy that better protects all public employees for the city of Orem," Ortner said.

A year later, Orem librarians are back with the ULA and a new policy was just implemented. The city said changes were “made based upon research conducted by the legal department.” The revision “represents our commitment to the principles of freedom of express and to the first amendment.”

"Employees in the library and other city employees know they have a constitutional right to express themselves, even if they’re criticizing the city, and the city knows those rights have to be protected," added Ortner.

As for heritage displays, Orem adopted another new policy which has allowed Pride and heritage displays to continue, something that has been in place since April 2023.