The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER
This proceeding summons the application of a well-settled principle of constitutional law: when government decides to provide a benefit or an opportunity, it cannot condition the grant on the surrender of unrelated freedoms. In Perry v. Sindermann,
Justice Stewart, who authored the view of the Supreme Court, stated the principle forcefully:
[The government] may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected interests -- especially, his interest in freedom of speech. For if the government could deny a benefit to a person because of his constitutionally protected speech or associations, his exercise of those freedoms would in effect be penalized and inhibited. This would allow the government to "produce a result which [it] could not command directly." Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 526 [78 S. Ct. 1332, 1342, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1460]. Such interference with constitutional rights is impermissible.
The plaintiff Mrs. Dorothy Blitz alleges in her complaint that a recent congressional enactment and its implementation by the Secretary of Labor ran afoul of the principle set forth in Perry and infringed upon her first amendment right of free speech. This Court agrees with her contentions and concludes that she is entitled to appropriate relief.
The series of events supporting the plaintiff's claim are not disputed in any material respect. Mrs. Blitz is a member of the Communist Workers Party. In May 1980, she enrolled in an employment training program established under the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA).
She resided in Martinsville, Virginia and the program was administered by the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).
One year later, she had completed 600 of the required 700 hours in her course of study. At that time she obtained a leave of absence because of a pregnancy and anticipated childbirth.
In December 1981, the United States Congress enacted into law an amendment to an appropriations bill for fiscal year 1982. The enactment, Public Law 97-92,
The legislative history of the amendment left no doubt that it was specifically intended to exclude Mrs. Blitz from the CETA program because of her political beliefs and affiliations and because she expressed those beliefs in her community.
The enactment has since been referred to as the "Blitz Amendment."
On January 20, 1982, after the birth of her child, Mrs. Blitz reapplied to the Martinsville, Virginia CETA officials with the hope of completing her course of study. Although she was found eligible and qualified to pursue her training, she was told by a VEC representative that the "Blitz Amendment" presented problems as to her enrollment. The representative also informed the plaintiff that the VEC office was awaiting guidance from the Virginia Attorney General on the implementation of this amendment and could not enroll her until such guidance was received.
On January 24, 1982, Mrs. Blitz wrote the Virginia Attorney General requesting a prompt decision on whether she could participate in the program. She was advised on February 15 that the question of her eligibility was still under review. The response also noted that "[the] Labor Department has declined to prepare field instructions, which has left the various states very much on their own in implementing the amendment."
In late February 1982, the VEC issued a regulation requiring all CETA applicants to respond with a "yes" or "no" answer to the question: "Do you now, or have you within the past five years, publicly advocated the violent overthrow of the Federal Government?" The regulation provided that if the applicant supplied a "yes" answer or refused to answer he would be disqualified from eligibility and participation in the CETA program. It further provided that if the applicant gave an equivocal answer, the matter was to be reported to the Central Office of the Virginia Employment Commission, and the applicant would remain disqualified until that office made a further determination.
Mrs. Blitz refused to answer the question, stating that she had a right to participate in CETA programs "no matter what" her political beliefs and associations. According to her affidavit, she believes:
that the United States government will one day be overthrown in a popular, domestic revolution because the government does not serve the interests of the American people. I also believe that only the American people will be able to over-throw the government and that they will do so when it becomes evident that it is in their best interests to do so. I believe that this revolution may have to be accomplished by force if necessary, and that ...