The ACLU of Rhode Island issued the following statement today:
We have received a number of inquiries about the legality of Governor McKee’s decision to fire Miguel Sanchez due to his expression on social media of his personal views about the ongoing war in the Middle East.
The ACLU of Rhode Island finds it concerning any time that a government employee is punished for the private exercise of their First Amendment rights. We recognize that there are certain limited circumstances where the scope of free speech protection extended to government officials is reduced, but it is not obvious from Mr. Sanchez's job responsibilities that they apply here or justify the extreme action of termination.
While the Governor has made clear his vehement disagreement with the views expressed by Mr. Sanchez, we believe he should also clarify how those personally expressed views compromise the ability of either of them to discharge their public duties so as to warrant the sanction of firing. It is this factor, not merely strong disagreement with an employee's personal, off-hours expression of controversial views, that should be key, and which is essential to prevent a chilling impact on the exercise of free speech by others in his administration.