Thomas More Society Attorneys File Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Officers Who Treated Her Like a Terrorist
A New Jersey mother who was treated like a terrorist for posting on social media about offensive signs at a local school is now suing those who violated her civil rights. Thomas More Society attorneys filed the lawsuit on March 15, 2023, in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on behalf of Angela Reading, a third-year law student, mother of two, and respected member of her county’s regional board of education.
The suit alleges that the police chief of North Hanover Township, acting in combination with military personnel from the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, coerced the removal of her Facebook post objecting to sexually explicit material posted in the hallway of a local elementary school to which her children were exposed. The named defendants then portrayed her as a “security threat” and reported her to various law enforcement and security agencies in an effort retaliate against her and make her afraid to speak in the future.
Christopher Ferrara, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, explained that “Mrs. Reading’s November 22, 2022, Facebook post was made as a private citizen from her personal social media account to a discussion group about New Jersey schools,” Ferrara detailed. “In it, she shared how she had attended an elementary school ‘math night’ the previous evening with her seven-year-old daughter, who after reading LBGT-affirming posters in the school’s entry, asked her mother what ‘polysexual’ meant. Mrs. Reading merely questioned why elementary children were being invited to research topics of sexuality, noting that it is not in the state educational standards nor the board of education approved curriculum. Mrs. Reading did not name names or schools, and invited respectful debate.”
What Reading received was outright censorship of her speech followed by a dedicated smear campaign begun by a military officer, U.S. Army Reserve Major Christopher Schilling, who emailed parents and school officials condemning her and her actions. Schilling, using his official military email account, then involved Joseph Vasquez, a U.S. Air Force civilian employee, who forwarded Reading’s post and Schilling’s claims to the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the New Jersey State Police in what Vasquez admitted were “hopes of getting an Incident Detection and Response sent to schools and police departments”—meaning there would be a widespread law enforcement “threat” alert regarding Reading based solely on her clearly protected speech.
“This intention to trigger a preposterous widespread law enforcement investigation and state of alarm over Mrs. Reading’s protected speech as if it were an ‘incident’ of potential, or even actual criminality, is a violation of Mrs. Reading’s civil rights,” Ferrara related.
The lawsuit describes how the situation snowballed, as members of the military, law enforcement, and the Township abused the power of their offices not only to censor Reading’s speech but also to create a public fury specifically directed against Reading.
As the complaint concludes: “The defendants acted singularly and in conspiracy with one another to deprive and chill the exercise of Mrs. Reading’s rights, including rights protected by the United States and New Jersey constitutions, as well as other laws.”
Ferrara noted that as a result of the defendant’s coordinated smear campaign, conducted in their official capacities, the Readings have been “demonized, harassed, traumatized, and excoriated throughout the community, forced to resign their school board positions, and having been made unwelcome, now feel they must seek costly alternative education for their children. All of this is a direct result of a conspiracy to punish a mother who did not welcome a public school’s attempt to force a woke ideology upon her own, and other, young children—and to have the audacity to exercise her right of free speech to do so in a peaceful manner in an appropriate forum.”
Read the Verified Complaint for Civil Rights Violations and Injunctive and Declaratory Relief, in Angela Reading v. North Hanover Township, New Jersey et al., filed by Thomas More Society attorneys on March 15, 2023, in the United States Federal District Court for the District of New Jersey—Camden Vicinage, here. and exhibits here.