An Oregon man has found himself fighting for his First Amendment right after he was fined for doing math without a license.
Mats Järlström, who has a bachelor of science degree in engineering, was fined $500 after the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying declared he was practicing engineering without a license after he claimed his calculations could prove the state’s timing of yellow traffic lights was too short.
According to The Oregonian, the case began when Järlström took issue with the green-yellow-red progression of traffic lights in 2013, after his wife was cited for running a red light.
Järlström claimed the formula that determined the timing when lights changed from yellow to red was flawed, and that the time was too short, especially for drivers making a left or right turn. He added that with his calculations, he could prove the system was wrong.
He even presented his findings on “60 Minutes” and at the annual meeting of the Institute of Transportation Engineers last summer.
Apparently, the board doesn’t think non-engineers should be allowed to do such things as formulate math calculations and challenge the state, so they slapped him with the fine.
Järlström is fighting back. He filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the board maintaining that a state law that doesn’t allow anyone to use the word “engineer” if they’re not an Oregon-licensed professional engineer is an “unconstitutional ban on mathematical debate.”
Lawyers from the Institute for Justice representing Järlström argue that the investigation against him is an attack on his free speech, and the state law that defines “engineer” is a violation of the First Amendment.
“Criticizing the government’s engineering isn’t a crime; it’s a constitutional right,” attorney Sam Gedge said in a statement, according to KOIN. “Whether or not you use math, criticizing the government is a core constitutional right that cannot be hampered by onerous licensing requirements.”
Järlström, 56, told The Oregonian he has a right to speak.
“It’s important in my mind we can share ideas freely in Oregon to promote innovation,” he said. “I feel violated at this point in time.”
As he should. No one should need a license in anything to exercise their First Amendment right.
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