Former adjunct professor Celeste Barber of Santa Barbara City College, who was shouted down by another professor when she attempted to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at a public meeting, is suing the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees because the other professor was not removed from that public meeting last January.
As Adam Sabes writes for Campus Reform, “According to the complaint, filed by Dhillon Law Group, the SBCC Board of Trustees violated California's Brown Act when it allowed a current professor to shout down Barber while she recited the Pledge of Allegiance, which at the time had been removed from meetings.”
Sabes cites a press release by the Dhillon Group stating, “The college had recently changed its policy of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before the Board of Trustees meetings. Ms. Barber had applied to speak to the Trustees as to why they should return to the old policy of reciting the pledge. Throughout her comments, Professor Napoleon continually interrupted Barber’s prepared comments. Professor [Raeanne] Napoleon also encouraged others in the audience to also attempt to shout down Barber’s prepared comments.”
Prior to the incident, on January 21, 2019, board president Robert Miller wrote an email to Barber, stating, “I decided to discontinue use of the Pledge of Allegiance for reasons related to its history and symbolism.” He added, "Our flag is a powerful symbol of freedom and our system government, but I prefer to pledge allegiance to our constitution instead of a physical object … I also object to the phrase 'one nation under God.' The First Amendment not only protects freedom of speech and religion, it also expressly prohibits laws that establish a religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly extended those rights to those who express no belief in God. Thus, I disagree with the 1955 act of Congress to add this phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance."
The complaint from Barber states that on January 24 Napoleon shouted that the Pledge of Allegiance was “racist” and also cites board president Robert Miller for his failure to remove Napoleon.
The Brown Act states in the California Government Code, “In the event that any meeting is willfully interrupted by a group or groups of persons so as to render the orderly conduct of such meeting unfeasible and order cannot be restored by the removal of individuals who are willfully interrupting the meeting, the members of the legislative body conducting the meeting may order the meeting room cleared and continue in session.”
After a firestorm of criticism broke out, on January 29 Miller wrote on Facebook, “Effective immediately, the Pledge of Allegiance will be recited at Board of Trustee meetings until some future date when the matter may be considered by the Board. This decision, which restores the status quo, follows an appeal for reinstatement from members of the public who raised important issues at the January 24 board meeting."
Mark Meuser of Dhillon Law Group told Campus Reform: "On January 24, 2019, the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees failed to follow the Brown Act by not removing individuals who were disrupting the meeting. By failing to follow California law, the Trustees were violating Mrs. Barber’s Constitutional Right of Free Speech and to Petition her Government by giving a heckler’s veto to whoever had the loudest voice. The Constitution does not give hecklers the right to veto the Constitutional rights of Americans."