Speech First is an advocacy organization that supports free speech for students on college campuses to protect students’ First Amendment rights. Supported by a membership base of students, parents, alumni, and faculty, Speech First files court cases challenging issues on campus such as speech codes, bias response teams, and acceptable use policies, especially as they restrict political and religious speech. 1
Speech First claims that college campuses have created policies designed to stifle unwanted speech, especially conservative political and religious opinions hostile to American universities’ hegemonic woke-progressive ideology. Speech First alleges that campus “safe spaces” and “free speech zones” censor speech and infringe on students’ First Amendment rights. 3
Since 2018, Speech First has filed First Amendment cases against Iowa State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas, the University of Illinois, the University of Central Florida, and Virginia Tech. The lawsuits claim that the schools’ vague and over-broad policies were designed to chill student speech, violating their constitutional rights. 4
Speech First is funded by individual donations and by members who pay a one-time membership fee of $5. Speech First also receives grants from non-profit organizations like the Bader Family Foundation, which contributed $30,000 in 2018, 5 and the Judicial Education Project, which contributed $1 million between 2017 and 2018. 6
Mary Ellen Beatty is the director of operations of Speech First. She formerly worked as chief of staff for the Franklin Center and majored in journalism at Marquette University. 8
Board of Directors
Nicole Neily is the former president of Speech First. Neily formerly worked as president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, executive director and senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, and manager of external relations for the Cato Institute. Neily was a student member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 9
Kathryn Ciano Mauler is a technology regulatory lawyer. Mauler formerly served as an associate with the Institute for Justice and as a law clerk in the Department of Justice. 10 Mauler is a contributor to the Federalist Society. 11
Jamil Jaffer is the founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University. Jaffer formerly served as a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. Jaffer serves on the advisory board of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ Center on Cyber and Tech Innovation, as a member of the Center for a New American Security’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence and National Security and Digital Freedom Forum, and on the executive committee of the International Law and National Security Practice Group of the Federalist Society. Jaffer served as a law clerk to Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, on the leadership team of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as senior counsel to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and as an associate counsel to the White House during the Bush Administration. 12
Montse Alvarado is the vice president and executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Alvarado has sat on the advisory boards of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the GIVEN Institute, and the Philos Project. Alvarado serves as a consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Religious Liberty Committee. 13
Josh Holdenried is the vice president and executive director of the Napa Legal Institute and sits on the board of the Fund for American Studies’ Summer Law Fellowship. Holdenried formerly worked as the associate director of coalition relations at the Heritage Foundation. 14
Matthew Foldi is a journalist with the Washington Free Beacon and former Republican political operative. 15
- “Court Battles.” Speech First, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://speechfirst.org/court-battles/.
- “Directory: Washington, DC.” State Policy Network, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://spn.org/directory/#DC.
- “Campus Speech is Under Attack.” Speech First, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://speechfirst.org/.
- “Court Battles.” Speech First. Accessed January 26, 2022. https://speechfirst.org/court-battles/.
- Bader Family Foundation, Return of Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2018, Part XV, Line 3.
- Judicial Education Project, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990), 2017-2018, Schedule I, Part II, Line 1a.
- “Our Team.” Speech First, January 22, 2022. https://speechfirst.org/our-team/.
- “Mary Ellen Beatty.” Speech First, 2022. Accessed August 16, 2022. https://speechfirst.org/staff/mary-ellen-beatty/
- “Nicole Neily.” Speech First, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://speechfirst.org/bio-nicole-neily/
- “Kathryn Ciano Mauler.” LinkedIn, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathrynciano/.
- “Kathryn Ciano Mauler.” The Federalist Society, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://fedsoc.org/contributors/kathryn-ciano.
- “Jamil N. Jaffer.” George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://www.law.gmu.edu/faculty/directory/fulltime/jaffer_jamil_n.
- “Montse Alvarado.” Religious Liberty for All, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://www.becketlaw.org/staff/montse-alvarado-2/.
- “Joshua D. Holdenried.” Napa Legal Institute, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2020. https://www.napalegalinstitute.org/team/josh-holdenried.
- “Matthew Foldi, Author at Washington Free Beacon.” Washington Free Beacon. Accessed January 26, 2022. https://freebeacon.com/author/matthew-foldi/.