Stand Up for Free Speech


Target: Texas Senator Jane Nelson

Goal: Condemn Sen. Nelson for ordering the forceful removal of a constituent during recent Senate hearings in Texas.

The United States has always prided itself on its commitment to freedom and democracy, and the Bill of Rights has always been a particular point of pride. However, recent video from a Texas Senate hearing is quite at odds with the image of America as a haven for free speech, as Sen. Nelson had a Texas woman forcibly removed from the hearing for expressing her disgust and disagreement with the law under discussion. Such a gross abuse of power and violation of civil rights cannot be allowed to stand. Sign the petition and condemn Sen. Nelson and the Texas Senate for having the audacity to silence free speech.

When pro-choice activist Sarah Slamen sat down to address the Texas Senate after a long day of listening to pro-life testimony, she was, by her own admission, frustrated and angry. Despite scrapping her planned speech to speak off the cuff, Slamen refrained from profanity and kept her comments relevant, if heated; she sarcastically told one senator, “You’re an ophthalmologist, so I won’t be making you the expert on reproductive health.” As she began to direct a comment to the next senator, Sen. Nelson, who was overseeing the proceedings, banged her gavel and began, “I will not allow–,” to which Slamen responded, “Excuse me, this is my government, ma’am. I will judge you.”

Sen. Nelson continued to speak over Slamen until Slamen inquired, “Is this counting against my time, the senator talking against me?” When Sen. Nelson answered in the affirmative, Slamen announced her intention to continue speaking for her allotted time, regardless of whether Sen. Nelson was talking or not. At this point she was surrounded by Texas state troopers, physically lifted from her seat, and forcibly removed from the Senate chamber.

The entire situation should be infuriating to all Americans, regardless of their feelings on abortion. Pro-life or pro-choice, all constituents have the right to address their government freely. Slamen’s rhetoric was inflammatory, certainly, but she was well within her rights to express her opinion and even call out elected officials personally, as her individualized remarks were relevant to her larger point and were not baseless personal attacks and insults. Dragging an American citizen out of a Senate hearing at which she is legally allowed to speak is unfounded, unconstitutional, and runs counter to everything the Bill of Rights stands for.

American citizens have the right to make their voices heard–regardless of whether or not their views align with those of the Texas Senate. Sign the petition and condemn Sen. Nelson’s unconstitutional removal of Sarah Slamen from the Texas Senate.


Dear Senator Nelson,

The French Enlightenment figure Voltaire is famously credited with the words “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your  right to say it.” The founding fathers, who were greatly influenced by Enlightenment principles, would be disgusted at the recent scene in the Texas Senate, in which Texas resident Sarah Slamen was forcibly removed from the room simply for stating her opposing opinion. Shame on the Texas legislature for this gross violation of constitutional rights, and shame on you for ordering her removal.

It is by now common knowledge that Slamen’s views run counter to those of many Texas senators. However, her First Amendment right to free speech is as valid as any other citizen’s–senator, activist, or anyone in between. Her speech, while inflammatory and pointed, was relevant to the topic under discussion; her personal callouts were again restricted to relevant information. A constituent has every right to express dissatisfaction–and even disgust–with and to her elected officials. Removing her from the Senate chamber simply because she criticized individual senators makes a mockery of the First Amendment, civil rights, and the Senate itself.

Slamen and the people of Texas deserve an apology for the grossly incompetent mismanagement of this entire incident. I urge you to act accordingly.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons

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