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 [...]
A new article in Color Lines revitalizes the discussion around the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, NY. The school, which teaches classes in both Arabic and English, was conceived of in 2005 as a multicultural learning environment. “Since 9/11, Arabs have been targeted in New York,” said one Arab parent who did not want to be named for fear [...]
In November 2007 Katherine Evans, a senior at Pembroke Pines Charter High created a Facebook group criticizing her teacher. Three other students weighed in to comment: all supporting the teacher. Two days later Evans took down the page. Two months later, the school principal Peter Bayer told Evans that she would be suspended for three days for “bullying and cyberbullying [...]
JuicyCampus sues Tennessee State University. Bonus: Excellent editorial from Brandeis University's student newspaper on why Brandeis should not ban JuicyCampus. Excerpt: "Students encouraging administrative control of which pages students can and cannot view on Brandeis' network are encouraging a restriction of their First Amendment rights."
Professor Adam Habib has been barred from speaking at US universities, presumably for his critique of the US and Middle East foreign policies. Today, After the government moved to dismiss the case, Judge George O’Toole of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that the case will proceed. A South African scholar, Habib has written at the [...]
Dahlia Lithwick, who's covering Wyeth v. Levine in the Supreme Court describes the case like this: "Wyeth is being called the most important business case of the year because, if the court finds that the FDA warning occupies the field of drug warnings, it will effectively immunize drug makers from many state tort suits. If it finds pre-emption here, the most business-friendly Supreme Court in decades can cancel the room with two queen-size beds and order a single king for itself and big pharma".