Pulled books, Picasso's Stalin poster taken down, obscenity charges for manga, Kokopelli sculpture taken down, images of guns censored.
First Amendment rights have taken a beating in the last eight years. With new faces in Washington, this trend may be reversed. Here are some of the issues to watch.
To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, for every complex problem, there’s a simple solution — and it’s almost always wrong. Mencken must be smiling at the proposal to address the complex problem of teen smoking by including warnings to parents about movies that contain smoking, like the warnings about sex and violence.
The Supreme Court has a full docket of First Amendment cases. Some of them are
confusing even to the Justices. The article looks at: Ysura v. Pocotatello Education Association, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Wyeth v. Levine, and Citizens United v. FEC.
Political conventions are about political speech. Or at least about political speeches: night after night of them. That speech is protected — by layers of security at the conventions, including police, the Secret Service, the FBI, and even the U.S. Northern Command. But the forces arrayed to protect those inside the highly fortified convention centers routinely restrict the free speech of those outside.
Arkansas Tech University postponed a student production of John Weidman and Steven Sondheim’s “Assassins” – a historical play about presidential assassins – because administrators thought the sight and sound of gun violence in the play could be disturbing in light of recent campus shootings.
Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest producer of pork products, has raised the stakes in its resistance to organizing efforts by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) by filing a lawsuit alleging that the union’s advocacy violates The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a federal law designed to combat organized crime.
In a highly publicized incident this March, the San Francisco Art Institute cancelled Don't Trust Me, an exhibition by Algerian-born French artist Abdel Abdessemed consisting of video footage of animals being killed by a single blow from a sledgehammer.
Only 6 years ago, the Supreme Court held that “virtual” child pornography – sexual depictions that appear to, but do not, involve actual children – is protected by the First Amendment, for the same reasons that simulated sex in films like Lolita is protected.
The Michigan state legislature repealed its unconstitutional restrictions on arts funding to settle a federal lawsuit filed against it by the ACLU on behalf of the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
“Balance” has become the stalking horse for efforts to undermine academic freedom, to pressure journalists to self-censor or tone down critical reporting, and to justify censorship of art. What the proponents of "balance" demand is that any expression on a controversial topic be accompanied by opposing views, no matter how prevalent the latter may already be in public discourse. Frequently, the demand for “balance” results in the cancellation of the entire discussion. Such situations suggest that the rhetoric of balance has been co-opted as a subtle and insidious disguise for censorship.
“Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.” So says Chief Justice John Roberts, in his decision in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, which considered whether federal restrictions on “electioneering communication” immediately prior to an election violate the First Amendment.
On June 4th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision in Fox Television Stations v. FCC that the Federal Communications Commission’s rule banning “fleeting expletives” was “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act.
On July 10, Dr. Richard Carmona disclosed that the administration interfered with his work and muzzled him on numerous issues throughout his four-year tenure as Surgeon General.
A flourishing “marketplace of ideas” is one of the great goals of the First Amendment. It is jeopardized today by an environment of government secrecy that denies the public and even lawmakers access to information necessary to make sound decisions.
In July, a fractured Supreme Court issued four separate rulings in Morse v. Frederick, the case involving a high school student who was suspended after standing on a public sidewalk in Juneau, Alaska, displaying a banner that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” (See CN#104.) The result is a narrow but disturbing loss for First Amendment advocates, who are left to [...]
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Supreme Court is poised to address the free speech rights of students. The Court is considering a case, Morse v. Frederick, involving a high school senior from Juneau, Alaska, who was suspended for displaying a banner that his principal did not approve of.
Don Imus created a giant headache for free speech advocates. Of course he’s entitled to say what he wants. And his employers also have the right to fire him for it. The heavy hand of government was not involved. So why are so many First Amendment advocates uneasy?
NCAC participated in a March 12th congressional briefing to urge the 110th Congress to protect First Amendment principles, and to remedy damaging measures enacted in the past several years. Here are some of the key issues currently under consideration.
Edward Albee, Stephen Sondheim, Christopher Durang, Marsha Norman, John Guare, and other prominent members of the Dramatists Guild joined NCAC and other free speech advocates to oppose the censorship of a student play about Iraq in Wilton, CT.
The Community Center in Mansfield, CT removed a photo collage by George Jacobi depicting images of the American flag and two sculptures by artist Eda Easton from an exhibition; the former because an Air Force veteran found it offensive and unpatriotic, and the latter because a local mother thought the sculptures were sexually suggestive.
NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Network (YFEN) conducted a panel discussion at the 4th Annual Grassroots Media Conference, held February 24, 2007, at the New School in NYC
Recent cases weighed the First Amendment principle of the free transmission of information against competing considerations of national security and personal privacy.
Recently, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency, a case questioning whether the EPA is obliged to regulate carbon dioxide, a major component of greenhouse gases, as an air pollutant. What the casual observer might not realize is that the case is also about censorship and the distortion of science for political purposes. ...
In FCC v. Pacifica (1978), the Supreme Court created an exemption to First Amendment law when it upheld the authority of the Federal Communications Commission to regulate “indecent” broadcast material, defined as “language that describes, in terms patently offensive ... sexual or excretory activities and organs.” However, the Court cautioned the FCC to “exercise [its] authority with the utmost restraint, lest we inhibit constitutional rights.”
During the 25th annual Banned Books Week in late September, a Houston-area parent challenged Fahrenheit 451 – a book about reading and thinking freely. “It’s just all kinds of filth,” he claimed, admitting later that he had not read it.
NCAC Censorship News Issue #102: Roz Udow (1926 - 2006): An Appreciation Roz Udow was a member of NCAC’s Board and editor of Censorship News for more than 20 years until her death on May 29, 2006. She was a passionate advocate, deeply committed to free expression and her work at NCAC, but she was able to write about the [...]
"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one" – so said writer and critic A.J. Liebling. Now it appears the same dictum may ring true for the Internet, as Congress faces competing pressure from the telecom industry and free speech activists over the future of network neutrality.
In Apple v. Does, a California state appeals court upheld the rights of online journalists (or "bloggers")to protect their confidential sources. Apple Computer sued several “John Does” for allegedly leaking information about new products
New technologies almost invariably stimulate irrational fear. In 1671, the governor of the colony of Virginia opined, “I thank God we have not free schools nor printing ... For learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them ... God save us from both."
Microsoft has submitted a patent application for a “censoring filter,” which would alter digital speech recordings "so that undesired words or phrases are either unintelligible or inaudible."
Issue 101, Spring 2006 On September 30, 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published “The face of Mohammed,” 12 cartoons (including the one at right, by Arne Sørensen) accompanied by an article in which editor Flemming Rose commented provocatively, "The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own [...]
The US Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it found no "sound scientific" evidence to support medical use of marijuana, disregarding contrary findings by the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine in 1999.