A Real Mixed Week for Free Speech

On the positive side, the Supreme Court has struck down portions of the BCRA, also known as McCain-Feingold:

The Court concluded that Wisconsin Right to Life's ads, which urged
people to contact their senators (including one who was up for
re-election) about the confirmation of judicial nominees, did not
constitute either. The majority said "a court should find that an ad is
the functional equivalent of express advocacy only if the ad is
susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to
vote for or against a specific candidate." To put it another way,
BCRA's pre-election blackout cannot be constitutionally applied to a
spot that reasonably can be viewed as an issue ad, which means interest
groups are once again free to engage in public policy debates on the
air, no matter what time of year it is.

By the way, does anyone on the left feel at all worried that the four liberal judges were on the "limit speech" side of this issue?

But at the same time, the Supreme Court upheld speech limitations against High School students based on the content of the speech.  The rights of non-adults is a complicated issue, but precedent has been set that student speech is generally protected unless it is significantly disruptive of the school's functioning.  Except, it appears, when it is related to drugs.  This is part of a disturbing trend where an increasing number of topics, from "hate" speech to drug legalization speech are considered to be exceptions to the First Amendment.  However, almost everyone on the court seemed to have a different view on this, so it may be hard to generalize here.  Even the concurring opinions ranged the gamut from "this is narrowly aimed only at speech about narcotics" to "there is no free speech right in schools for minors."

And, speaking of hate speech, out in wacky Oakland, the world leader in Ebonics studies,

Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family
values. That sentence is inflammatory, perhaps even a hate crime.

At least it is in Oakland, Calif. That city's government says those
words, italicized here, constitute something akin to hate speech and
can be proscribed from the government's open e-mail system and employee
bulletin board. ...

Some African American Christian women working for Oakland's
government organized the Good News Employee Association (GNEA), which
they announced with a flier describing their group as "a forum for
people of Faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of
the day. With respect for the Natural Family, Marriage and Family
Values."

The flier was distributed after other employees' groups, including
those advocating gay rights, had advertised their political views and
activities on the city's e-mail system and bulletin board. When the
GNEA asked for equal opportunity to communicate by that system and that
board, it was denied. Furthermore, the flier they posted was taken down
and destroyed by city officials, who declared it "homophobic" and
disruptive.

The city government said the flier was "determined" to promote
harassment based on sexual orientation. The city warned that the flier
and communications like it could result in disciplinary action "up to
and including termination."

We might as well just repeal the First Amendment now and save time if we continue to believe that the government should ban any speech that offends someone.

Oh, and while we were talking about kids and drugs, check out this awesome rant by Mayor Cory Booker of Newark.

He wants to reserve prison cells for those who do violence and
divert the nonviolent drug offenders into treatment programs and
halfway houses.

He wants to change the New Jersey laws that
bar many ex-cons from getting a driver's license. He wants a black kid
from Newark who sells marijuana to clear his record as easily as the
white kid from the suburbs who buys it.

He wants to stop banning ex-cons from such a long list of jobs, including warehouse jobs at the nearby airport.

The scale of the problem is staggering: About 1,500 convicts are
released from state prison to Newark each year, and 1,000 of them will
likely be arrested again within three years -- mostly for drug crimes.

"The drug war is causing crime," Booker says. "It is just chewing up young black men. And it's killing Newark."

Good, its about time.  Not to be misunderstood, I would kick my kid's asses from here to the moon if I found them doing hard drugs.  But I want the responsibility to mold and repair their behavior to be mine, an option that is cut off if they get thrown in jail (which they probably wouldn't, since my kids are well off and white).  It is fine and fairly rational that we have determined as a society that kids can mess up their life doing drugs.  It is insane -- totally insane -- that our response is that we will respond by ... messing their life up even worse by throwing them in jail.

  • Craig

    I would add to this the attacks on talk radio, including threats of a rebirth of the Fairness Doctrine, by those upset that talk radio is telling people what's in the immigration bill.

  • CRC

    "The rights of non-adults is a complicated issue, but precedent has been set that student speech is generally protected unless it is significantly disruptive of the school's functioning."

    This may be true. But, a) he WAS an adult (18-years old at the time), b) he was on a PUBLIC sidewalk (not the school grounds...which is public property too BTW), and c) he was told (and later punished) by a government employee because the government employee didn't like what his banner said.

    That is the case in a nutshell. This is a very sad ruling indeed.

    What happens to the next guy that shows a banner that says "Doobies 4 Jesus"? Hmmm. Does he mean "doobies" or does he mean "Doobies". This is a pure B.S. decision.

  • nicole

    Re: Good News. While I don't agree with the ruling on this case, I wish people would stop acting like the court said anything about "hate speech," which of course isn't an actual crime in California - or anywhere else. This was purely a case about restricting speech on hostile work environment lines, and if a private employer had been involved I would say this was the right outcome. Since the employer was the government, I think there should have been a higher standard against suppressing speech, but please don't continue the lie that there were allegations of "hate speech" involved when there weren't. Doesn't seeing someone claim that "marriage" and "natural family" have been declared hate speech set off your BS-meter, even when it has to do with California?

    Anyway, check out this and this for more information.