BECKER, Mn.— Leda Mox loves horses. When she speaks about them, you can hear the passion and enthusiasm in her voice. Leda loves horses so much, in fact, that she has dedicated nearly her entire life to working with and studying them. She eventually paired that love of horses with her entrepreneurial spirit and started a thriving equine massage clinic in Becker, Minnesota, teaching others who wanted to learn from Leda’s decades’ worth of experience.
But the state of Minnesota doesn’t care about Leda’s credentials, or her subject matter expertise, or, most importantly, her constitutional protections under the First Amendment for occupational speech. What the Office of Higher Education instead cares about is forcing Leda to complete a thirty-page application, pay exorbitant fees up front (and then annually to maintain her license), and furnish the state with a great deal of information—most of which is completely inapplicable to her small business.
Leda is fighting back and teaming with the Institute for Justice (IJ), a non-profit public interest law firm, to challenge these onerous restrictions.
“The First Amendment has clear protections for occupational speech, protections the State of Minnesota is plainly violating,” said IJ Attorney Jeff Redfern. “Leda deserves to have her Constitutional rights upheld and to be able to freely speak without government approval.”
Leda is a life-long Minnesota resident who grew up on a small hobby farm. She has a bachelor’s degree in equine science and has been certified in equine massage since 1997, when she skipped her high school graduation to attend one of the only certification programs in the country at the time. In college, she competed in several events through the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association and spent a great deal of time around performance horses.
The Minnesota Private and Out-of-State Public Postsecondary Education Act attempts to regulate “private career schools,” like Leda’s, that teach real-world occupational skills to students willing and eager to learn them. Even if Leda does go through the process of providing all the information required, there’s still one last hurdle. The state’s Office of Higher Education will need to review Leda’s curriculum to be sure that it adequately teaches the subject of equine massage.
When Leda found out the business she built up might be in jeopardy, it was a blow.
“What I teach is more than just a job, it’s a passion,” said Leda. “For the state to come in and tell me what I can and cannot say to people who want to hear it and given my entire track record and years of practice, it’s just not right.”
“This case goes beyond just Leda,” said IJ Litigation Fellow Bobbi Taylor. “The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to speech within their occupation. Teaching is speech, and burdensome restrictions on speech—particularly those that regulate speech based on its subject matter—are unconstitutional.”
Previously, IJ has successfully protected a Mississippi startup’s First Amendment right to create informal maps in the face of a regulatory board’s failed bid to shut the company down for supposedly practicing “land surveying” without a license. In California, IJ successfully defended a horseshoeing teacher’s right to talk about horseshoeing to willing students and is now defending the right of two end-of-life doulas to talk about home funerals with willing clients. IJ has also secured court victories all over the country—from the District of Columbia to Charleston to Savannah—for tour guides who want to tell stories without needing the government’s permission.
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To arrange interviews on this subject, journalists may contact Phillip Suderman, IJ’s Communications Project Manager, at [email protected] (850) 376-4110. More information on the case is available at: https://ij.org/case/minnesota-horse-teaching/