IJ Doesn’t Horse Around With the First Amendment

Bob Smith opened the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School in 1991 to teach new generations the centuries-old trade of making horseshoes and safely applying them to horses. Bob has trained more than 2,000 students—many of them with little to no formal schooling—to become farriers. His students simply want to learn a trade that pays well so they can provide for themselves and their families. But California is threatening to shut down Bob’s trade school and fine him $5,000 unless he stops accepting students who do not meet the state’s prerequisite education requirements. These requirements are modeled after a federal law regulating federal student loans. But Bob does not accept student loans. Nevertheless, California will allow Bob to accept only students who have a high school diploma or a GED or who pass a government-approved test that has nothing to do with a career in horseshoeing. California’s law muzzles Bob’s right to speak for a living and denies less-educated students entry to the trade school of their choice.

After the government told Bob to stop accepting students with limited formal education, he had to turn away 26-year-old ranch hand Esteban Narez. Esteban just wants to make a living as a farrier, but because he does not have a high school diploma, this law stands in the way of his success.

This is where IJ comes in. Bob and Esteban have teamed up with IJ to file a First Amendment lawsuit to vindicate their constitutional rights to teach and learn a useful skill. Just like writing a how-to book or uploading an instructional video to YouTube on horseshoeing would be speech protected by the First Amendment, so, too, is teaching horseshoeing in a classroom setting—and that is what Bob does. People have taught horseshoeing for centuries, long before the concept of formal education requirements existed. No one needs to read The Great Gatsby to learn how to shoe a horse.

Countless Americans earn their living in jobs that consist primarily of talking. Their free speech rights are protected by the First Amendment just like those of an author or a journalist. This case is part of IJ’s national campaign to protect the rights of people who speak for a living, like diet coaches, yoga teachers, engineers, tour guides and now horseshoeing schools and their students. Moreover, a victory in this case will allow individuals—especially those in more rural areas and with little formal education—to still earn an honest living.

So long as California insists on silencing Bob and standing in the way of Esteban’s career plans, IJ will work tirelessly to have its unconstitutional vocational teaching law struck down.

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