Harmeet Dhillon: California threatens cops' rights – here's how bill silences police, attacks 1st Amendment

Democrats frequently insist on assigning aspirational titles to bills that do the opposite of the label. The CLEAR Act (us-regions Law Enforcement Accountability Reform Act) is no different. 

The legislation attempts to personal-freedoms opposed to leftist ideology, defining “hate speech” so broadly that a group opposing same-sex marriage could be classified as hateful, implicating numerous religious institutions, charities and faith-based foster homes.

Even the elections platform, which supports traditional marriage, could be classified hateful according to the bill’s own terms. 

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The CLEAR Act, or AB 655, introduced by a California State Assembly Democrat and scheduled for a vote on April 6, tramples on police officers’ First Amendment rights to speak freely and associate with group members who share similar views.  

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AB 655 would allow termination or denial of an applicant who “has engaged in membership in a hate group, participation in hate group activities, or public expressions of hate, as specified, and as those terms are defined.” An investigation would delve into an officer’s (or applicant’s) current membership, with a look-back period of seven years (after the age of 18).  

Although the bill’s author amended certain parts, what remains is still concerning. For example, affiliation with an organization whose positions would cause “mental harm” to “any group of persons based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability” would subject an officer to possible termination.

Since members of the public could make complaints triggering investigations under the act, we can expect allegations of mental harm to flood public agencies – just look at the overreactions seen daily from those on the left to anything remotely conservative. And notably, this applies to police officers who are on or off duty, if they could be “reasonably identifiable by others as a peace officer.” 

What other industries and professions might Democrats deem in “need” a speech code or a “prohibited membership background investigation”? 

A law that denies employment to a person solely based on membership in a group is unconstitutional. In the 1960s, the Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting persons from holding employment if they were members of “subversive” or communist groups, basing the supposed prohibition on protecting national security.

The court has also struck down state laws requiring public employees, such as teachers, to disclose membership in various organizations and subsequently, denying employment for membership in a subversive group.  

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Perhaps the most concerning aspect of AB 655 is the fact that it was even introduced – what other industries and professions might Democrats deem in “need” a speech code or a “prohibited membership background investigation”? 

The bill’s author claims that AB 655 is necessary to prevent “the apparent cooperation, participation and support of some law enforcement” in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. But out of thousands of people present at the Capitol that day, it is reported that a mere 13 were off-duty police officers. 

Certainly, some persons present were violent at the Capitol, but the overwhelming majority were nonviolent, exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble, speak and petition the government for a redress of grievances.  

Using the events of Jan. 6 to justify passage of this bill is pretextual, given that California Democrats have been seeking to punish conservatives, people of faith and people with heterodox views for many years.  

The CLEAR Act should be wiped clean from California’s current legislative session, making room for legitimate debate on bills needed to boost California’s failing economy and reopening schools for the state’s children. 

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