Gary Formhals had dedicated over a decade of his life to the Washington State Park system, starting as a volunteer and eventually becoming a part-time employee. His commitment and hard work were recognized a few years ago when he was honored with the prestigious “Award for Excellence.” Therefore, it came as quite a shock when he found himself being terminated from his position.
The unexpected turn of events began earlier this year when a visitor noticed the presence of Trump bumper stickers on Gary’s personal vehicle. This visitor took offense to the stickers, labeling them as “insurrectionalist” and promptly lodged a complaint. In response, park officials presented Gary with an ultimatum: remove the bumper stickers or face the consequences of losing his job.
In a firm display of his beliefs, Gary chose to stand by his support for Trump. This decision, however, led to further complications. The American Center for Law and Justice stepped in and filed a lawsuit against the Park system on Gary’s behalf. It didn’t take long for the Park system to reconsider their actions and have a change of heart.
This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of freedom of expression and the need for fair treatment in the workplace. Gary’s unwavering commitment to his beliefs ultimately led to a positive outcome, highlighting the significance of standing up for what one believes in.
“As we explained previously, under the old policy, a Park employee couldn’t even engage in normal chitchat with Park visitors for fear that it would violate the prohibition on all ‘personal opinions, messages or points of view. Statements like ‘It’s a beautiful day,’ ‘I love the Seattle Mariners,’ or ‘It’s right for the government to support public parks’ were all forbidden,” ACLJ said in a statement.
The actions taken by the Park system constituted a breach of the Constitution.
Government officials are prohibited by the First Amendment from suppressing the speech of their employees.
Thanks to Gary’s efforts, the First Amendment rights of other staff members will be safeguarded.