free-speech

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The US Constitution is an amazing construct that allows many freedoms; however, community associations CAN impose limitations on certain forms of speech that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment between the people and our government.

That said, it is generally not the place for any individual or the Board to attempt to censor speech or dictate what individuals say. WA Statute RCW 64.90.445(2)(b) outlines exactly what can be discussed in an executive session which, by extension, defines what would generally be considered confidential:

An executive session may be held only to:

(i) Consult with the association's attorney concerning legal matters;

(ii) Discuss existing or potential litigation or mediation, arbitration, or administrative proceedings;

(iii) Discuss labor or personnel matters;

(iv) Discuss contracts, leases, and other commercial transactions to purchase or provide goods or services currently being negotiated, including the review of bids or proposals, if premature general knowledge of those matters would place the association at a disadvantage; or

(v) Prevent public knowledge of the matter to be discussed if the board or committee determines that public knowledge would violate the privacy of any person.


There are, of course, certain reasonable limits on the freedom of expression permissible in different forums. The aforementioned statute specifically allows a Board to expel and/or prohibit attendance by any person who disrupts the meeting.

Below is an example of how an association may write a rule that governs how its internal electronic message board system is used:

It is not the Association’s practice to moderate content, so always use common sense when posting and be respectful of others. The following types of content are expressly prohibited:

  • Bullying and harassment

  • Cruel and insensitive language likely to cause emotional, physical and/or psychological harm

  • Graphic and/or violent depictions

  • Hate speech, credible threats and/or personal attacks

  • Incitement of violence

  • Information you know to be false and/or misleading, including the dissemination of false news

  • Profanity

  • Schemes intended to deceive and/or defraud

  • Solicitations for criminal activity and/or illegal substances

  • Spam (abusing our electronic system to artificially increase viewership such as posting the same or significantly similar content repeatedly more than once a week or and/or repeatedly distributing content for commercial and/or personal gain)

  • Correcting factual and/or grammatical error(s) in your posted content is not considered spam

  • Suicide and self-injury

  • Topics and/or images of a sexually explicit nature

  • Violations of privacy

RCW 64.90.510 includes language which may be representative of how a court would rule related to the display of political signs and symbols. Here's the relevant text:

(1) An association may not prohibit display of the flag of the United States, or the flag of Washington state, on or within a unit or a limited common element, except that an association may adopt reasonable restrictions pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the association. For purposes of this section, "flag of the United States" means the flag of the United States as described in 4 U.S.C. Sec. 1 et seq. that is made of fabric, cloth, or paper. "Flag of the United States" does not mean a flag, depiction, or emblem made of lights, paint, roofing, siding, paving materials, flora, or balloons, or of any similar building, landscaping, or decorative components.

(2) The association may not prohibit display of signs regarding candidates for public or association office, or ballot issues, on or within a unit or limited common element, but the association may adopt rules governing the time, place, size, number, and manner of those displays.

You may also want to reference the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005. Also see this excellent summary at HOPB.

FREE-SPEECH REFERENCES