MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Middle Tennessee State University professor is suing a Tennessee State Representative claiming that the representative violated his First Amendment rights by blocking him on Facebook.
Court documents say in September 2021, the professor, who teaches mass communications at the university, was blocked from State Rep. Jeremy Faison’s (R-Cosby) official Facebook page after posting a critical comment.
According to the federal lawsuit, the incident occurred on Sept. 6 after Rep. Faison’s official Facebook page posted a Labor Day message: “Happy Labor Day – the people of Tennessee Deserve a holiday for always getting the job done!”
A user by the name of Ray Barnes then commented on the post.
“It’s great to be appreciated… how about a raise?” the comment read.
Court documents show Rep. Faison responded to the user’s comments a total of three times. First, with his official account saying, “I guess the idea of bettering yourself with a education or getting a better job is just out of the question for you?”
Rep. Faison then responded to the user a second time under his personal account.
“Success is given not earned,” the legislator posted. “Yeah, that’s real 1900s.”
Rep. Faison then switched back to his official account and replied for the third time to the user stating, “Very unAmerican of you. There is always a way if you are willing to work.”
Files show the MTSU professor then jumped into the discussion arguing Representative Faison’s critical comments were hypocritical, especially since the government official received $25,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans that were forgiven by the federal government.
The MTSU professor says he was then blocked by the representative, and his comments referring to the loans were deleted.
In the federal lawsuit, the professor argues the representative violated his First Amendment rights to speak freely in a public forum by deleting his comment and blocking him from viewing or commenting on a government official’s page.
Attorneys representing the MTSU professor state they have tried to contact Rep. Faison several times requesting that he unblock the professor from viewing or engaging with his official Facebook page, but they have yet to receive a response.