By James F. Tierney
In a story we missed when it first broke a month ago, a federal appellate court upheld a Texas school's decision to suspend the high school sophomore for writing a violent fictional short story that school administrators interpreted to be a "terroristic threat." According to the Student Press Law Center, the Fifth Circuit decision "relied heavily on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's opinion" in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case that came down this summer -- Morse v.
By James F. Tierney
Two weeks ago, Harvey Silverglate blogged about a federal Magistrate Judge, Wayne Brazil, who overturned a “civility code” at San Francisco State University on the grounds that it targeted speech and expression that falls under the protection of the First Amendment. (The case was brought by the officers of SFSU's College Republicans, who were investigated under the civility code when students complained they had insulted Muslims by stepping on the Hamas and Hezbollah flags -- which contain the word “Allah” in Arabic script -- during an anti-terrorism rally.
By Harvey Silverglate
H. L. Mencken, late in life, allowed himself to be
interviewed by a young reporter from his hometown newspaper. The interviewer
asked the grand old curmudgeon, "why, if you find so much that is unworthy
of reverence in the United
States, do you continue to live here?" Mencken
answered the query with another question: “Why do people visit zoos?”
Well, living right smack in the middle of the zoo that Harvard has become
in its dotage, I now understand Mencken’s reasoning perfectly.
One of the craftiest semantic tricks adopted by campus
censors since the mid-1980s used to suppress unpopular viewpoints and supposedly
offensive speech on campus has been the “civility
code,” a close relative of the “harassment code.” The latter has received more
attention by commentators
as well as courts
Last week the family of a U.S. marine who died in Iraq won a $10.9 million award against members of the Westboro Baptist Church for picketing outside the soldier’s funeral, bearing signs reading “God Hates Fags.” (They “argue” that U.S. servicemen and women are dying in Iraq because God is punishing the U.
The act of censorship is usually seen as a direct affront to the First Amendment, buts it’s not always that clear and simple. The reason, of course, is that the amendment has several clauses, and at times some of them are in tension with one another, if not in seeming conflict.
Consider today’s curious report in The Boston Globe that the pastor of St.
Scholars have for centuries sought
to define and promote the concept of academic freedom, and, while the exact
definitions they’ve arrived at have varied, the underlying rationale has always
been the same: to shield academics from political and religious pressure. For
this reason, I’m a bit puzzled by the fact that many of the modern-day groups that
describe themselves as defenders of academic freedom are also clearly political
in nature and often seem to be promoting a political agenda rather than
neutral principles of liberty.
Once again, the news media faces a “prior restraint against publication” imposed by the courts, yet few in that industry or elsewhere seem to understand the nature and impact of prior restraints and the true threat they pose. Contrary to common belief, prior restraints pose a more serious threat to Sixth Amendment rights (i.