Park Volunteer “Fired” for Trump Bumper Stickers Causes Controversy

Gary Formals, a former U.S. Navy chief and recipient of the “Award of Excellence” for his service, is at the center of a controversy regarding his pro-Trump political bumper stickers on his personal vehicle. Formals, who also works part-time and volunteers for the Washington State Park and Recreation Commission, was ordered to remove his political bumper stickers as a condition of his continued volunteer service and part-time employment with the park system.

The Washington State Park and Recreation Commission cited a policy governing “Public Contact/Communication” as the reason for requesting Formals to remove or cover his bumper stickers. The contentious bumper stickers included political statements in support of Trump, such as “Trump 2020” and “2-TRUMP-4.”

In response to the request, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed a lawsuit against the WA State Park on behalf of Formals, asserting that the request violated his constitutional rights. The ACLJ criticized the policy used against Formals as “wildly overbroad,” and sought to have it declared unconstitutional by the court. The lawsuit also sought damages for the violation of Formals’ constitutional rights and compensation for lost wages as a result of his forced resignation from his part-time position.

The ACLJ argued that the First Amendment does not permit government officials to censor the speech of their employees unless it negatively impacts the efficient administration of the workplace, which was not the case in Formals’ situation. The organization pointed out that while Park officials were aware of Formals’ political bumper stickers for years, they only took action after a visitor expressed outrage and labeled the stickers as “insurrectionalist.”

However, following the filing of the lawsuit by the ACLJ, the WA State Park agreed to work on changing the language of the policy and removing the problematic aspects. The new policy aims to prioritize public service and ensure that all park visitors feel respected, safe, and welcomed at all times. The policy emphasizes professional, friendly, and polite behavior from hosts, in line with State Parks policies and the laws of the State of Washington, including those relating to non-discrimination, anti-harassment, and respect for persons.

The ACLJ welcomed the changes to the policy, noting that it reinstates the important balance between maintaining the efficiency of the public parks and protecting the free speech rights of volunteers and employees. With the resolution of this case, Formals and other volunteers and employees of the Washington State Park and Recreation Commission can now express their personal opinions and viewpoints within the bounds of the new policy.

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