By seeking to punish Assange for the publication of secret information, the Justice Department has crossed a line that threatens the public's right to view information that is damaging to the government.
Federal courts have repeatedly affirmed that prisoners have a First Amendment right to read, and publishers and others have a right to send them reading materials. And state departments of corrections have repeatedly instituted broad book bans.
When a nation built on broad protections for speech faces times of deep political division, it must draw a firm line between freedom of speech and violent conduct or disruptive behavior aimed at silencing others.
Image courtesy of Drew Kerr The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) urges Queens Library to restore an exhibition of photographs it canceled and allow it to run for three weeks as originally planned. Drew Kerr’s exhibition, Faces of The 7 Train, consists of 32 black-and-white photographs that the artist shot of passengers on the 7 train over the course of [...]
In August, the National Park Service issued a proposed rule to introduce fees for holding protests on the National Mall, posing a serious threat to Americans' right to free speech and assembly.
NCAC has joined with 17 other organizations in filing a brief with the US Supreme Court in the case of Prison Legal News v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections.
The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation will give its First Amendment Lifetime Achievement Award to Joan Bertin, longtime Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship.
The university was sued by a group of students for failing to protect them from peer-on-peer harassment by not banning a social media app. NCAC writes in support of the university's commitment to free speech.
The Masterpiece Cake case that is currently before the Supreme Court is not about speech--it is about conduct. The First Amendment protects the baker’s right to condemn gay marriage, but it does not exempt him from obeying otherwise valid and neutral business regulations that require that he treat his customers equally.
NCAC has urged an Oklahoma board of education to rescind its policy of disciplining students who do not stand during the national anthem as students have the right to peaceful and non-disruptive political speech, which includes the right to protest.
The violent protesters of Charles Murray need to understand a basic principle: the right to speech exists for all, or for none.
The removal of artworks by incarcerated Native American activist Leonard Peltier from a Washington state government building raises serious First Amendment concerns.
This is a good, concise history of abuses by the intelligence community and offers a great argument against warrantless surveillance. Without that break-in by the Media 8, J. Edgar Hoover’s “shadow FBI,” a criminal conspiracy at the heart of a developing national security state, might never have been revealed. (The CIA, officially banned from domestic spying on Americans, turned out [...]
How does the First Amendment protect the rights of students and teachers? This guide provides background on the legal and practical questions surrounding school censorship controversies.
If you love libraries, you might know that today marks the anniversary of an important decision upholding the First Amendment in schools. In Board of Ed. v. Pico (1982), the plurality opinion stated that school libraries have “special characteristics” as providers of free access to information, and should be especially vigilant of upholding students’ First Amendment rights. Pico began when [...]
The following post was written by NCAC's summer legal intern, Ryan Gander. Ryan is a current student at Columbia Law School. His interests include philosophy, civil liberties, science fiction, and video games. The Supreme Court has a troubled relationship with the First Amendment and that’s not even talking about what goes on in the courtroom. Since 1949, federal law has [...]
(applause for alliteration, please) This month we've been working on restoring two children's picture books teaching tolerance for different types of families. Though they are quite different in content, tone, reading level and appropriateness, their challenges parallel one another immensely. Book one is The Family Book by Todd Parr, a peppy, colorful and simple picture book teaching that families might be [...]
After a busy week working to fight back against book bans and challenges, we were thrilled to see some good news. A Tulsa school district recently heard a parent's challenge to the book Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford. The parent who challenged the book called the book "vulgar, vulgar, vulgar," objecting to its references to masturbation, pornography and an [...]
This morning, we took a moment to capture a bit of the action at Zuccotti Park in the wake of the late night, NYPD eviction of the encampment that had lasted almost two months. Here, a participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement talks about the judge's restraining order stating protestors must be allowed entrance to Zuccotti Park (pending a [...]
Photo by rosipaw on Flicrk This week, Stephanie Mencimer at MotherJones.com reported on horrifying cases of harassment and suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin schools of Minnesota, in Rep. Michelle Bachman’s district. The article, published within days of a suit filed against the district by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has further mobilized advocates calling for expanded anti-bullying policies and [...]
After a member of the La Salle University's faculty hosted an optional symposium with special guests (read: exotic dancers), the editors of the university's paper The Collegian knew they had a story on their hands. One of the Collegian staff members interviewed two students who had attended the conference, as well as university officials and the professor himself. But the [...]
A couple weeks ago, Terry Jones finally gave into his burning desire to burn a Qur'an. Over the weekend, Afghans rioted over online video of the burning, resulting in the deaths of up to 20 people. General Petreus called the burning a "security threat" to the Afghan occupation, and Senators Harry Reid and Lindsay Graham have called for Congress to [...]
In response to the national outrage over the removal of artist David Wojnarowicz’ video Fire In My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery following pressure from the Catholic League and Republican Congressional leaders, the Smithsonian Board of Regents formed an Advisory Panel*.
The removal of David Wojnarowicz's video from the National Portrait Gallery last month renews conservative groups' attacks on the arts. Clearly, it's timed with the ascension of the Republican majority in the House and attempts to formulate a strategy for eliminating voices and ideas they find troubling. It's remarkable how unoriginal and inflexible their thinking and approach has become, using [...]
John Stagliano had his case thrown out by Judge Richard Leon early this week. Rather than having been found not guilty based on the First Amendment, it was thrown out because the prosecution bungled their case, and the judge determined that not enough evidence was given to prove that Stagliano was involved with Evil Angel Productions. The counsel for the [...]
Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate today as the newest member of the Supreme Court, replacing Justice David H. Souter who retired in June. She becomes the 111th member of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the third woman and first Hispanic to serve on it. What does her confirmation mean for the First Amendment? See our [...]
The phrase “safe libraries” should always raise a red flag. Proponents for “safer libraries” argue that some information is inherently dangerous, but the First Amendment is designed to ward off the suppression of information. In the case of internet filters intended to block sexually explicit material, librarians and community members have to ask the questions, “Safe for whom?” and “Safe [...]
Last week, we analyzed cases from the Second Circuit, in which Sonia Sotomayor had some part in deciding, addressing the right to free expression. Still the Supreme Court’s role, and Sotomayor’s judicial style make it difficult to make a broad statement about how she will decide on free expression issues in the years to come. […]
Our analysis of Sotomayor’s free speech record wouldn’t be complete without a mention of her dissent in Pappas v. Giuliani. The case reached the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002 and concerned the firing of Thomas Pappas from the NYPD. The department had found that he had anonymously circulated racist and anti-semitic literature through the mail from his home. [...]
Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s record of First Amendment cases has been under scrutiny since President Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court last week. Let’s start with the bad news: In Doninger v. Niehoff (2008)*, Sotomayor was part of a panel of judges who decided that a high school student’s blog posts, made from a home computer, were not protected speech. [...]
The New York Times weighed in Tuesday on "libel tourism" and advocated for the Senate bill that would protect U.S. citizens’ First Amendment rights from the more stringent laws of other countries, notably England. Senators Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman recently introduced the Free Speech Protection Act of 2008 in the U.S. Senate. A bi-partisan effort prompted primarily by concern [...]
Speaking Freely Online: craigslist Reminds South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster of This Right
First Amendment jurisprudence celebrates the metaphorical marketplace of ideas. The website craigslist may very well be an actual representation of this metaphor in that it invites users all over the world to share their ideas, sell their used couches, find roommates and advertise other services, including sensual massages and escort services. I think most readers of this blog agree that [...]
Fleeting Expletives and the 9-Second Nipple: The Supreme Court Defers to the FCC’s Decision Making in FCC v. Fox & FCC v. CBS
On Tuesday April 28, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in the matter of FCC v. Fox Television Stations, which on its face appears to be hostile to free speech interests. In a 5-4 decision, the Court sided with the FCC, finding that the agency had not been arbitrary or capricious in its sanctioning of Fox Television Stations, Inc. over two instances of live broadcasts where the F- and S- words were uttered. The FCC had determined that these instances of “fleeting expletives” were indecent, but not protected by the First Amendment--- despite a long standing tradition of fleeting instances of indecent content being immune from FCC sanctions. Every cloud has its silver lining, however. This case’s silver lining is that it will ultimately be fantastic for free expression, in that Justice Antonin Scalia, in writing for the majority, declined to make a decision regarding the constitutionality of the FCC’s new policy regarding fleeting expletives, instead sending the case back to the lower court for further deliberation on this issue.
Statement from the National Coalition Against Censorship Regarding the Recent Removal of an Artwork from an Exhibition at BGSU Firelands’ Little Gallery The recent removal of artwork by James Parlin from an exhibition of sculpture in the Little Gallery at Bowling Green State University Firelands is an unacceptable violation of the academic freedom to openly discuss ideas and social problems [...]
According to The Associated Press: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously . . . that a small religious group cannot force a city in Utah to place a granite marker in a local park that already is home to a Ten Commandments display. The case, reported in NCAC’s last issue of Censorship News, involves a Salt Lake City based religious sect [...]
Gene Policinski of the First Amendment Center sheds some light on the topic of internet censorship in a recent article in the North Country Gazette. He argues that, while the first amendment does not apply to private companies, privately owned internet companies have an unprecedented amount of control over the speech of large groups of people. For hundreds of millions [...]
At Faribault High School in Faribault, MN, students have refused to allow their superintendent to review a particular article before going to print. The Student Press Law Center reported that the students, citing their 1st Amendment rights, told the Superintendent: “What you believe [is] inappropriate concerning the Prieve story is not a legal standard for prior review or from stopping [...]
NCAC and 10 other civil liberties organizations have joined FIRE and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in an open letter to the president of Michigan State University. The letter defends MSU student Kara Spencer who was charged with spamming. Here are excerpts from the letter: We the undersigned write to express our profound concern about the state of free expression at [...]