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Group Warns Rep. Daniels: Stop Blocking People On Facebook Or Face Potential Suit

Florida House of Representatives
Rep. Kimberly Daniels (right) on the floor of the Florida House.

A legal nonprofit is warning state Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, to stop blocking constituents from commenting on or reacting to her Facebook posts. 

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to Daniels on July 23 because someone in her district complained she was blocking people who criticized her religious posts on the page titled State Representative Kimberly Daniels. 

As WJCT News reported around the same time, Daniels’ page discusses both policymaking and, more frequently as of late, Christianity. Daniels is a pastor in addition to an elected official, and she uses the State Representative Kimberly Daniels page to post video sermons and taped episodes of her Christian radio program.

Freedom From Religion Foundation co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said as a recent court ruling against President Donald Trump showed, the mix of both personal and policy uses is the heart of the issue.

“[Trump]… often makes pronouncements and governmental announcements, official announcements, on his personal Twitter feed. So he's been blocking any critics on his personal Twitter feed. And the Second Court of Appeals, U.S. court of appeals, said you can't do that. It violates the citizen’s First Amendment rights, that basically that personal Twitter feed has become something that he is using as a governmental vehicle because of the way he uses it,” Gaylor said.

She said her office has sent similar cease-and-desist letters to about a dozen public officials for blocking people, nationwide. 

“It would be like if somebody went to a town meeting and then they raised their hand and simply asked something that their representative didn't like, and they were escorted out of the room by a guard,” she said.

She said none of the cases has gone beyond the cease and desist letter — yet.

“We never really think of our letters as threats, we think of them as instructional. But if we have the right plaintiffs who have standing to sue, we would certainly sue over something like this,” Gaylor said.

WJCT News left a message with a staffer at Rep. Daniels’ Tallahassee office. This story will be updated with any response.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP