Government officials throughout our country are in deep need of some education on the First Amendment. And the latest ones are currently serving in the Town of Gilbert right here in Arizona.

Last week, AZ Free News released an investigative report on Gilbert’s Office of Digital Government (ODG) and its Orwellian monitoring of employees’ online speech. For over a decade, the ODG, which is made up of approximately a dozen employees, has been working to ensure that Gilbert’s 30 official digital accounts—along with the personal online posts of all Town of Gilbert employees—align with a progressive, liberal agenda. And how much do you think this is costing taxpayers in Gilbert? Over $1.1 million each year in salary alone, with Chief Digital Officer Dana Berchman making over $200,000 annually.

When asked about the allegations in the investigative report, the town responded that it “will not tolerate divisive, offensive or culturally insensitive posts from employees purporting to represent the Town.” That’s interesting. Who decides what’s divisive, offensive, or culturally insensitive? The employees within the ODG? Dana Berchman herself?

It’s hard to think of an issue more divisive than our last presidential election, and yet Berchman, who interned for Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, regularly used her personal social media profiles to promote then-presidential candidate Joe Biden while urging people to vote out then-President Donald Trump. You can go see for yourself on Dana Berchman’s X (formerly Twitter) profile. Oh no. Wait a minute. Within hours of the AZ Free News report breaking, Berchman and Gilbert Town Manager Patrick Banger made their profiles private. What does that tell you?

The reality is that what is happening in Gilbert demonstrates a clear pattern—from the federal government to local governments to our schools—to control, censor, and manipulate speech. And it’s all geared toward targeting conservative thought and traditional American ideals.

We saw it back in July 2021 when then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.” Read that again. She said that the federal government was flagging “problematics posts” FOR Facebook. But Psaki didn’t stop there. The next day, she turned around and said that if you’re banned from one social media platform, you should be banned from them all.

Then there’s what happened to Ann Atkinson who served as the executive director of the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development at Arizona State University’s (ASU) Barrett Honors College. Last February, Atkinson organized an event on “Health, Wealth, and Happiness” as part of a series from the Lewis Center focused on connecting students with professionals who can offer career and life advice. Speakers for the event included conservatives like Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk, but the mere mention of these names caused many of the Barrett Honors College faculty to have a meltdown. Despite fierce opposition from these faculty members, the event did take place and was a great success.

So, how did ASU respond?

The university fired Lin Blake, the event operations manager at ASU Gammage and dismantled the Lewis Center in June, which terminated Atkinson’s position.

Stories like these—involving censorship of conservatives—can be found all across the nation, and now it appears Gilbert is no longer immune. The town’s residents should continue to push back against the ODG until the Gilbert Town Council takes action. And every American should stand behind them. Freedom of speech is foundational to our nation, and any attempts to control it are incredibly dangerous. After all, if the government can get away with this, what could that look like if your preferred political party isn’t in power?

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