First Amendment Bright Line in the Digital Age – Courthouse News Service

A First Amendment line that grows steadily brighter is being drawn between American courts in the digital age.

It is the line between e-filing courts that give on-receipt access to reporters and e-filing courts that fight on-receipt access like it was the devils handiwork. In that second group, clerks want to first docket the new filings, which results in delay, which is the enemy of news.

On the access side of the line are the federal courts and state courts in Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York and Utah, all on a statewide basis, plus individual courts in California, Georgia and Nevada.

On the delay side of the line are e-filing state courts that are spread around the nation, including Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Texas. A few individual clerks in California also have also opted for delay.

The evolution in state courts of a restrictive policy on public access roughly matches up with a wave of interest in privacy from administrators over the last decade.

The movement crystallized in a set of conferences in Williamsburg from 2013 to 2016 called Privacy and Public Access, sponsored by the Conference of State Court Administrators and attended by state clerks and administrators from all parts of the nation.

At that conference, the notion of practical obscurity emerged as a dominant theme. The idea behind practical obscurity is that court records in paper form are often difficult to find. Therefore paper records are different from electronic records which are easy to search. And therefore this is the big leap access to electronic records should be restricted.

That train of thought can be translated as saying the public record should be hard to see.

The intellectual dust storm that originated in Williamsburg has lingered in the restrictionist views of many state court administrators. In contrast, it is almost entirely absent from the federal courts.

I have never heard a federal official talk about practical obscurity.

And the state court opposition to on-receipt access is not isolated, it is organized. Williamsburg sponsor COSCA worked with the National Center for State Courts to oppose a 2016 ruling out of Californias Central District that said the First Amendment right of access attaches to newly filed court records upon the clerks receipt.

I recently saw a survey sent out by COSCA and the national center in support of that opposition. The survey asks administrators across the nation to opine on the terrible things that might result from on-receipt access. One answers that the public might see unfounded allegations. Oh my goodness!

But also scattered within the survey are answers from administrators who say on-receipt access is no problem.

Question: What is the timing: are documents provided upon submission or after acceptance.

Answer from Utah state court administrator Dan Becker: Public documents are available upon filing.

Q: If you were required to provide same-day access to civil complaints and all exhibits and other attachments when filed (before any review or acceptance process by the court) on paper or electronically, could you do so?

A: Yes.

Q: What challenges would this pose?

A: None.

The survey was intended to support an amicus brief arguing that no right of access existed to court pleadings before a court hearing none at all. That argument was sent packing by the Ninth Circuit in its Planet III ruling.

But, in reviewing the brief recently, what I found most telling was its view of the press as simple scandal mongers. The brief concludes by saying on-receipt access is an open invitation for those who would use such records to gratify private spite or promote public scandal.

The rational answer to that bit of derision comes fromJudge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. in the Eastern District of Virginia. His conclusions were forged in the fires of a four-day trial where he was looking at me from about ten feet away while I testified under oath.

I think he had a good idea of why I pursue First Amendment access, in the face of just about the entire administrative apparatus of state courts in America.

Plaintiff, and other members of the press and public, have historically enjoyed a tradition of court clerks making most newly filed civil complaints publicly available on the day that they are filed, said the judge.

I think that the point the plaintiffs making is that it has its news value as soon as it happens, he added. If you dont get it when its fresh, its like stale bread. So I think the plaintiffs point on that is well-taken.

His court as well as the appellate court above provide on-receipt, public access to new pleadings.


More stories and columns on the Virginia trial:

National Press Corps Enter First Amendment Fray to See Court Filings on Same Day * U.S. Judge Slaps Virginia Clerks With $2 Million Fee Award in First Amendment Case*E-Filing and the First Amendment* Matter of Choice *The Dicta: Guesswork About Press Access * Presumption and Fact: The Ask for Access *CNSs View Accurately Told*Access Solution: The E-Inbox *Access Law in the Electronic Age * Bread and News * Flip Side of Court Tech * First Amendment Right to See Court Documents on Day of Filing * Tradition of Same-Day Access * The News Cycle

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First Amendment Bright Line in the Digital Age - Courthouse News Service

Where Two or More Are Gathered, the First Amendment Should Protect Them – ChristianityToday.com

The Christian tradition has a lot to say about community. People werent made to be solitary individualists. Aristotle may have been the first to describe man as a social animal, but he was not the first to recognize our inherent sociability.

The Scriptures describe God creating human beings to have fellowship with him. As God himself has eternal fellowship within the triune Godhead, human beings are also designed to have fellowship with each other. As God proclaimed in the Garden of Eden, It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Over the course of biblical history, God ordains a series of social institutions: marriage, family, state, church. Of course there is an important place for the individual in Christian anthropology. But the point is that the individual existsis created to existwithin a rich set of social interactions, institutions, and associations.

Mainstream contemporary political and legal theory, by contrast, tends to operate within a more constrained social landscape. The focus is on the relationship between the individual and the state. By comparison, non-state social groups get short shrift.

Several scholars have been working to change that, including Luke C. Sheahan, a political theorist at Duquesne University. Sheahans new book, Why Associations Matter: The Case for First Amendment Pluralism, makes the case for the importance of voluntary associations in our political landscape. Rather than the dichotomy of individual and state, Sheahan offers an account of society with three components: individual, state, and association. He argues that the American judiciary in particular has failed to recognize the importance of associations. Finally, he suggests ways to do better in the future. Thats where the First Amendment comes in, with its promises of protection for freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.

The books first task is to develop what Sheahan calls a political sociology of associations. Sheahan, echoing the sociologist Robert Nisbet, argues that human beings are social creatures who crave community and connection with others. This is a point that will intuitively appeal to many readers, but Sheahan doesnt elaborate on the foundations for the insight. One might wonder (as John Dewey did years before) whether this is grounded in psychology, biological instinct, or something else. To these, one could add Christian anthropology. In any case, Sheahan never invokes religious reasons, and it is enough for him that one accepts that humans are social.

Sheahan believes that associating with others has intrinsic value. It is in various social groups, he writes, that ones very personality is shaped and within which one finds identity and purpose. What is an association? Its not just a casual meeting of people. But neither does it have to be a formal organization with a constitution and bylaws.

Sheahan defines associations functionally (again drawing on sociological work by Nisbet), listing seven characteristics. Each association has (1) a function, (2) a sense of purpose (which will often coincide with the function), (3) an authority structure, (4) some amount of hierarchy, (5) solidarity among members, (6) a sense of the associations importance, and (7) a belief that the association has a special status relative to the rest of the world. This is a rich description of an association, whether or not one agrees with every point. This kind of association is one with a strong conception of its own identity and purpose.

So how does all of this apply to our legal system and political culture? Sheahans critique of existing law focuses on the Supreme Courts treatment of associations under the First Amendment. The First Amendment freedom of association protects freedom of speech and assembly (as well as religious freedom and press freedom). But the Supreme Court has done very little to recognize assembly as a right on its own. Instead, it has largely replaced references to freedom of assembly with references to freedom of association.

This might sound like a distinction without a differenceuntil one considers what association means to the contemporary Supreme Court. Association is not valued for its own sake but only as a means to further free speech. Building on the pioneering work of evangelical legal scholar John Inazus critiquing the reduction of association to speech, Sheahan explains that the Supreme Court has made speech as an individual right the predicate for the recognition of any associational rights. Sheahan calls this the First Amendment dichotomy: For the Supreme Court, First Amendment rights are either individual rights, or else there are no limits on how the government can restrict them.

Problems with this line of reasoning were evident in the Supreme Courts 2010 decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. In that case, the University of California Hastings College of the Law required student organizations to be open to any student. It refused to recognize a student chapter of the Christian Legal Society because the group required its officers to hold Christian doctrinal and ethical commitments, including the belief that sex should be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the university. It could require a student group to admit anyone to membership regardless of the groups own convictions (or else give up its status as a recognized student organization on campus).

Sheahan thinks the court was seriously mistaken in its approach. His point is not just that the courts majority was wrong. Sheahans argument goes deeper, criticizing even the dissenting justices who would have ruled in favor of the student group. The problem, Sheahan says, is that neither the majority nor the dissent gave an account of why associations are valuable apart from their instrumental utility in advancing speech by individuals within the association.

In place of the existing precedents, Sheahan argues that the courts should recognize associations, not just individuals, as bearers of First Amendment rights. He calls this First Amendment pluralism. These rights shouldnt depend on the association being expressive (that is, primarily concerned with speech). This associational right could be rooted in the Constitution (perhaps in the First Amendments guarantee of the right to assemble) or in a specific statute. Sheahan suggests legislation (modeled on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) that would compel judges to apply strict scrutiny to any government action that infringes on the freedom of association, broadly defined.

An obvious objection to this kind of protection for associations is that it could undercut civil-rights protections. Sheahan has two main responses, both familiar to those following the conversation on associational rights.

First, Sheahan says that his argument only concerns protection for voluntary associations, not for commercial or educational organizations (a racially discriminatory private school could still lose its tax exemption, for example). Second, he suggests that race discrimination might be a unique (and uniquely unjust) form of discrimination, such that a state university (for instance) could rightfully refuse recognition to a voluntary student organization that practices it. Sheahan recognizes that this raises as many questions as it answers. What characteristics make race discrimination different? (Is it the troubled history of race relations in America? The centrality of race to a persons identity?) Are there other kinds of discrimination (sex or, more controversially, sexual orientation) that are covered by the same principles? Does it undercut a principled commitment to associational pluralism to recognize areas where the state has a compelling interest in prohibiting discrimination? These are tough issues. To his credit, Sheahan doesnt shy away from this. But given that hes not the first to confront the issue, hopefully we will see more work on the subject in the future.

Another question that Sheahan doesnt analyze at all is how a defense of associational rights relates to corporate rights. Corporations are voluntary associations of a sort. The Supreme Court has controversially said that corporations can exercise constitutional rights. How does this fit with Sheahans vision of associational rights? And what makes commercial organizations different from noncommercial voluntary associations?

Sheahan doesnt have all the answers. But his book advances an important conversation about how to appreciate the social dimension of lifeincluding associationsin the face of an individualistic intellectual culture. Sheahans synthesis of work by Nisbet and others on the structure of associations is likely to become a point of reference for anyone serious about understanding the structure of human sociability. And his analysis of the Supreme Courts approach to association deepens existing critiques.

Even though this book isnt specifically about religious organizations, this conversation is one that Christian readers in particular have reason to care about. Churches have an interest in seeing continued legal protection as institutions; religious organizations like the Christian Legal Society are directly affected when courts recognize (or fail to recognize) associational rights. Christian teaching is already clear that human nature craves fellowship and sociability. Figuring out how to wisely live that out is a task for everyone.

Lael Weinberger is the Berger-Howe Legal History Fellow at Harvard Law School.

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Where Two or More Are Gathered, the First Amendment Should Protect Them - ChristianityToday.com

The third became the first | News | rheaheraldnews.com – Rheaheraldnews

Throughout our history, United States citizens have debated 45 words that have become the bedrock on which our culture stands: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Since the death of George Floyd, I have spent an enormous amount of time reflecting on what has occurred and continues to occur in our country. What originated in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has brought forth a level of dialogue around not only racism, but also our First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful assembly.

I did what any lifelong learner would do I researched it and refreshed my knowledge on those 45 words that are imprinted on Americans. Did you know that the First Amendment was actually supposed to be the Third Amendment? The original first and second amendment were defeated at the time. The original First Amendment dealt with how members of the House of Representatives would be assigned to the states a measure that would have resulted in more than 6,000 members of the House of Representatives! The original Second Amendment? It addressed congressional pay (it was later approved as the 27th Amendment 203 years later).

And then the third became the first. How fortuitous it was to have the first two amendments fail so that the third would become the first! The amendment for which the United States is known around the world and arguably has influenced other nations became first through fate.

While our courts have decided that some speech is protected and some not (fighting words, child pornography, true threats, etc.), it is important to remember that we should not necessarily differentiate who is entitled to free speech and assembly and who is not. Remember the document celebrated during our recent holiday: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those 45 words of the First Amendment encapsulate the liberty we cherish. You cannot be supporters of freedom of speech and assembly of only ideas with which you agree and only people with whom you agree.

The bottom line is this: Our First Amendment rights are fundamental to the fabric of our nation. Whether or not we agree with the speech or demonstration, we have been afforded this right by our founding fathers. Our ability to contribute to the marketplace of ideas whether or not we like or agree with those ideas and those who share them is what makes our country an incomparable place to live, work and play.

-Randy Boyd is president of the University of Tennessee.


The third became the first | News | rheaheraldnews.com - Rheaheraldnews

The Class of Special Rights Called the First Amendment – National Review

Sister Loraine McGuire with Little Sisters of the Poor after the Supreme Court heard Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal demanding exemption from providing insurance covering contraception, in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2016. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

In a piece for the Washington Posts Plum Line blog, opinion columnist Paul Waldman offers a few rather disorienting comments on yesterdays Supreme Court decision inLittle Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, et al.

The case dealt with whether the Trump administration had the authority to grant religious and moral exemptions to employers who object to covering contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health-insurance plans, as Obamacares HHS mandate requires. One such employer is the Little Sisters, a group of Catholic nuns who serve the elderly, sick, and dying poor.

In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled in favor of the administrations authority to grant those exemptions and thus, by extension, in favor of the religious and conscience rights of the Little Sisters.

Waldman observes that the ruling is evidence of a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, one that is determined to create a class of special rights that in practice are enjoyed only by conservative Christians. (Justices Kagan and Breyer will be thrilled, Im sure, to hear of their new assignation.)

This class of special rights Waldman mentions is, of course, the religion clauses of the First Amendment, and conservative Christians continue showing up in court to claim its protections only because their fellow citizens and antagonistic government officials continue forcing them to do so.

Later on, after advocating the abolition of employer-based health-care coverage something many conservatives would welcome Waldman further reveals his ignorance. One benefit of removing employer-based coverage, he avers, would be that it would deprive religious conservatives of the ability to keep suing over contraception, which gives them a focus for their endless cries of oppression and aggrievement.

It is difficult to imagine how one could honestly believe that the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby, the University of Notre Dame, and the Little Sisters of the Poor were overjoyed to have spent nearly a decade in court fighting merely to preserve their right to practice their faith in the public square.

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The Class of Special Rights Called the First Amendment - National Review

Movie Theaters Sue New Jersey Claiming First Amendment Right to Reopen – Variety

A group of movie theater companies including AMC, Cinemark and Regal have filed a lawsuit against the governor of New Jersey, claiming a First Amendment right to reopen during the pandemic.

The companies, led by the National Association of Theatre Owners, is challenging Gov. Phil Murphys order that allows malls, libraries, churches and museums to reopen, but keeps movie theaters and other entertainment venues closed.

Plaintiffs bring this action to ensure that movie theatre are treated equally with other similarly situated places of public assembly, and in order to exercise their First Amendment rights to exhibit films of significant artistic, cultural, political and popular merit, the lawsuit states.

The suit takes particular issue with Murphys orders allowing churches to reopen, with indoor gatherings limited to 100 people or 25% capacity. The plaintiffs contend there is no reason that theaters should not be allowed to reopen under the same restrictions.

There is no rational basis for Defendants distinction between, for example, places of worship and movie theatres for purposes of reopening, yet Defendants have allowed places of worship to reopen while movie theatres must remain closed, with no scheduled date for reopening, the lawsuit states.

Theaters have been designated for reopening under Stage 3 of the states protocols. The state entered Stage 2 on June 15, and the state has subsequently allowed indoor malls to reopen. Gyms, fitness centers, indoor amusement parks, performing arts centers, and multiplexes remain closed.

The major cinema chains are hoping to be able to open by the end of July. New Jersey is one of a handful of states that have not already allowed theaters to reopen or set a timeline that would allow them to do so by the end of July.

The exhibitors have met with state officials to share their safety protocols, but allege that New Jersey officials have been unmoved.

A spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners and a spokesman for Gov. Murphy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Movie Theaters Sue New Jersey Claiming First Amendment Right to Reopen - Variety

The First Amendment and alternative proteins – Beef Magazine

Independence Day may have come and gone, but it's clear that patriotism is alive and well in this country. I dont know about you, but it was so nice to unplug for a few days and spend some time with family, friends and fellow patriots as we celebrated our God-given freedoms and liberties that we enjoy in the United States of America.

And whether you spent the holiday participating at a peaceful rally or shooting off an explosive display of colorful fireworks, the best part about our country is our First Amendment the freedom of speech.

Related: Are fake meats gaining traction this summer?

As a blogger, writer and speaker by trade, this freedom is not lost on me. We are a country of free thinkers, and I hope our ability to freely express our opinions without fear of repercussion is something that is never stripped from us.

All that said, sometimes the First Amendment can be distorted in a way that does harm to others. Im not talking about being offensive or saying something that isnt considered politically correct or in poor taste. Im talking about something that leads to less transparency and greater consumer confusion in the marketplace.

Related: 8 things about fake meats for beef producers to consider

On June 9, a letter submitted by individuals at Harvard Law School cited the First Amendment as the main reason why cell-cultured protein companies should be able to freely label their products as they see fit.

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

The Harvard Law School Animal Law & Policy Clinic writes to respectfully urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to adopt a labeling approach for cell-based meat and poultry products that does not overly restrict speech and that respects the First Amendment. The Animal Law & Policy Clinic (ALPC) undertakes work in the area of animal law and policy, domestically and internationally, and focuses on high-impact opportunities to improve the treatment of animals through litigation, policy analysis, and applied academic research.

As part of this work, ALPC closely monitors technological developments within the food sector that have the potential to affect animals. Cell-based meat and poultry products (hereinafter referred to collectively as cell-based meat, also known as cultured or cultivated meat) are such innovations in food, with tremendous potential to positively impact animals, human health, and environmental sustainability.

As USDA Secretary Perdue envisions, cell-based meat could even offer a way to meet the tremendous protein needs of the growing global population. While the regulatory pathway for cell-based meats is not yet entirely defined, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has recognized cell-based meat and poultry products as meat and poultry products under its governing statutes, has asserted jurisdiction over labeling for such products, and is in the process of drafting labeling regulations for cell-based meats.

It is at this juncture that ALPC writes to urge USDA-FSIS to adopt a labeling approach that does not overly restrict speech and respects the protections afforded to commercial speech under the First Amendment. As detailed extensively below, a ban on the use of common or standardized meat and poultry terms on non-misleading cell-based meat labels is likely unconstitutional, as are labeling restrictions that are more extensive than necessary.

USDA-FSIS should wait until it has a better understanding of the composition and safety of finished cell-based meat products and an opportunity to review proposed labels before establishing speech restrictions that raise constitutional questions. By delaying the establishment of restrictive labeling requirements, USDA-FSIS will be able to assess whether, or to what extent, such speech restrictions are actually necessary in order to protect consumers from being misled.

Further, USDA-FSIS should only compel process-based disclosures or qualifiers on cell-based meat labels on a case-by-case basis when doing so is necessary to protect consumers from an increased food safety risk or material compositional difference.

While the folks at Harvard build a good case, I urge USDA to ensure that these products are clearly labeled to distinguish what is grown in a petri dish compared to what is produced on the hoof.

Clearly, these products are going to make claims on environmental, animal welfare and nutritional superiority to traditional meat products, as stated in this letter. While these claims are unproven and unsubstantiated, there should also be clearly defined labeling rules in place that limits these companies from also stealing our nomenclature and posing as regular beef.

Although I could talk at great lengths on this topic, Ill leave you with this every food offered to consumers should have to follow the same rigorous testing, limitations on marketing claims and proper and clear labeling rules, no matter what. Whether its traditional butter or a new-age petri dish protein, consumers deserve clear, transparent and well-defined labels that allow them to make educated and informed decisions in the grocery store.

By the way, I recently sat down with Willie Vogt, Farm Progress executive director, to discuss alternative protein trends, summer grilling, beef nutrition and more.

The interview was featured on the Around Farm Progress podcast. Of our chat, Vogt writes, Beef, it's on the grill this summer. But there's more going on with the beef industry, from how to cook the high-quality protein properly, to climate change, to a changing competitive landscape.

To explore those topics, in this episode of the podcast Around Farm Progress, Amanda Radke, long-time blogger forBEEF magazine,offers insight on a few hot topics, from grilling resources, to climate change and she even discusses the marketing approaches taken by meat-alternative companies. Oh, and she has an up-and-coming competitor in promoting beef, her daughter Scarlett.

Listen to the entire conversation by clicking here.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.


The First Amendment and alternative proteins - Beef Magazine

Indie Director Blasts Government’s Argument that Filming Isn’t Protected Speech – Hollywood Reporter

Gordon Price's attorney argues the government's position that filming is only facilitative of speech is "akin to arguing writing or typing can be freely regulated because they merely 'facilitate' speech and press rights."

An independent filmmaker is challenging the ability of the government to charge fees for commercial shoots in national parks and he's pushing back against its defense that the act of filming isn't protected by the First Amendment.

Gordon Price in December sued U.S. Attorney General William Barr, along with heads of the National Parks Service and Department of the Interior. He had been cited by NPS for filming without a permit in public areas of the Yorktown Battlefield in Virginia's Colonial National Historical Park for his feature Crawford Road, which centers on a stretch of road in the area that is rumored to be haunted and is home to multiple unsolved murders.The filmmaker argues that charging a fee for commercial shoots in national parks is effectively an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech.

The government in June filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for judgment on the pleadings. DOJ lawyers argue that Price's "nonspecific intention to film again at some point in the future is insufficient to establish standing to sue." Even if he did have standing, the government argues that the act of filming isn't actually protected speech, that it didn't happen in a public forum and that the NPS' permit and fee structure for commercial filming is content neutral. (Read the full motion here.)

On Wednesday, Price filed his own motion for judgment on the pleadings.

"Price has standing to challenge the Permit Regime's constitutionality because not only was it enforced against him, it is preventing him from engaging in specific filming at DOI-managed lands," writes attorney Robert Corn-Revere in the motion, which is posted in full below. Price had scouted locations at Yorktown and Manassas National Battlefields for a project that included a re-creation of the Saltville Massacre of Oct. 3, 1864, according to the complaint, but hasn't filmed there because of the citation he received for Crawford Road.

"The government has already enforced the Permit Regime against Price, requiring him to appear in federal court, retain counsel, and seek dismissal of the charges," writes Corn-Revere. "The government ultimately acquiesced, not on grounds the citation was improper or erroneous, but because it wanted to avoid Price's constitutional challenge. Notably, in dismissing, the criminal court expressly stated Price's remedy lies in a civil suit like this."

Corn-Revere argues that the government is trying to avoid the First Amendment by ignoring precedent that establishes there's no clear line between "the act of creating speech and the speech itself." He says the idea that filming is only facilitative of speech is "akin to arguing writing or typing can be freely regulated because they merely 'facilitate' speech and press rights."

He further argues that federal lands, specifically national parks, are traditional public forums but, even if they weren't, the permit structure is unconstitutional because it's inconsistent and unreasonable.

"Under the Permit Regime, commercial and noncommercial productions, engaged in the same activity, having the same impact, are treated differently absent any justification other than that Congress views noncommercial entities as not having 'profits' worth siphoning," writes Corn-Revere. "The First Amendment does not allow the government to raise revenue by taxing the exercise of constitutional rights, or charging fees in excess of costs of administering a legitimate regulation that governs speech."

Also on Wednesday, 10 media organizations including Getty Images, the National Press Photographers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists filed an amicus briefin support of Price.

"Amici are unaware of any court that has adopted the Governments position that the act of filming is not protected speech, or that filming is merely 'facilitative' of speech. And the government fails to cite to one," states the brief. "The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the creation of speech is explicitly protected by the First Amendment. These protections encompass a range of conduct related to the gathering of information including photography."

The organizations also argue that NPS allowed members of the media and the general public to create videos from the exact location where Price filmed his project.

"The government opened the park up for those 'approved' individuals to engage in expressive activity without restriction but charged Mr. Price with a crime for doing the same," they argue. "Amici do not dispute that the National Park Service can charge admission fees for members of the public, including photographers and filmmakers, who seek to enter NPS parks and engage in expressive conduct. However, the government cannot require permits and impose hefty financial barriers targeted at those who plan to take photographs or engage in other expressive activities, based solely on the content of the film or the identity of the speaker."

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Indie Director Blasts Government's Argument that Filming Isn't Protected Speech - Hollywood Reporter

The Civics Project: Constitutional wall between church and state forever being tested | Opinion – Florida Today

Kevin Wagner, The Civics Project Published 11:59 a.m. ET July 10, 2020

Question: The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on state funding for religious schools confuses me. What does the Constitution actually say about religion?

Answer: The U.S. Constitution does not say much directly. Article 6: Clause 3 states that No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Religion is mentioned again in the First Amendment, where we find many of the rights that we defend and debate today. The First Amendment restricts government from infringing on speech, the press, petitioning government for redress, and peaceable assembly. Those freedoms and the limitations on them are the subject of a great deal of debate and case law.

The First Amendment also speaks to two distinct issues regarding religion. First, it protects the free exercise of religion, and second it prohibits the government from establishing a religion. The second provision, often referred to as the Establishment Clause, is the basis for the concept of the separation of church and state. Courts have historically used this clause to prohibit government from favoring a particular religion, or any religion.

Kevin Wagner(Photo: Palm Beach Post)

The idea of keeping the government apart from religion has its roots in the founding. It was popularized in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Conn., in 1802. Jefferson wrote in part that prohibiting the state from establishing a religion would result in [b]uilding a wall of separation between Church & State.

The U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed Jeffersons wall approach to the interpretation of the Establishment Clause. In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo L. Black wrote that the First Amendment was intended to erect a wall of separation between Church and State. The nations high court also recommended that the wall should be kept high and impregnable, while cautioning against even the slightest breach.

In the abstract, that can seem pretty easy, but it is not. Religious people and institutions regularly interact with government and society. What breaches the wall and what does not can be confusing. In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), the Supreme Court created a test to help, which requires a valid law to have a secular (non-religious) purpose, neither advance or inhibit religion, and avoid excessive government entanglement with religion. What constitutes excessive entanglement has proven hard to define, and courts have been somewhat inconsistent in their interpretations.

While the Lemon Test has proven surprisingly durable, it has been subject to significant criticism. Many current jurists, including a number of U.S. Supreme Court justices, do not favor the test or the separation doctrine. Opponents argue that Jeffersons letter is being given too much weight and significance. Opponents have also argued that the wall metaphor is an overly broad interpretation of the Establishment Clause.

The current Supreme Court has favored a more expansive reading of the Free Exercise Clause, often at the expense of the Establishment Clause. This has resulted in rulings requiring religious exemptions for generally applicable laws and regulations in areas such as healthcare and education. Concerns about the Establishment Clause have been pushed to a more subordinate position.

Kevin Wagner is a noted constitutional scholar, and political science professor at Florida Atlantic University. The answers provided do not represent the views of the university.

The professor wants to hear from you. Keep in mind that no question is too basic; but it can be too partisan. So if you have a question about how American government and politics works, send us an email at rchristie@pbpost.com.

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The Civics Project: Constitutional wall between church and state forever being tested | Opinion - Florida Today

The First Amendment and our rights to speak, assemble and seek change – Hopkinsville Kentucky New Era

How do you protest safely during a pandemic? While theres no way to eliminate the danger, one of the obvious and universally recommended measures to mitigate the risk is to wear a mask. In the past weeks weve seen law enforcement pose its own dangers to protesters, employing weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as increasing their possibility of contracting COVID-19 by arresting them and packing them into confined spaces. But the most ironic of these actions would have to be the police in Washington, D.C., arresting protesters for wearing masks.

In addition to Washington D.C., 18 states and numerous municipalities have anti-mask laws. Many of these laws were passed in the 1940s and 50s to target the Ku Klux Klans use of masks and hoods. The rationale behind these laws that masks embolden people to commit crimes and make those crimes more frightening isnt necessarily outdated. But what is outdated is the fact that while most of these laws make exceptions for things like Halloween costumes and sporting events, and some have exceptions for face coverings worn for religious reasons, none has exceptions for masks worn for public health reasons or during protests. This ignores the fact that our society has undergone two major shifts since these laws were passed that should change our entire analysis of them. First, were in the midst of a pandemic spread by an airborne virus. And second, advances in surveillance technology mean that the right to speak anonymously and associate freely is compromised in a way that its never been before.

The First Amendment protects the right to speak and assemble anonymously, with the understanding that those who engage in political activism often need anonymity in order to avoid prosecution and harassment from those in power. This concept has a long history in the United States Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under pseudonyms. During the civil rights movement, the Supreme Court found that protecting the anonymity of members of controversial groups was necessary to preserve their freedom of assembly. The landmark 1958 case National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) v. Alabama arose out of the NAACPs refusal to turn over lists of its rank-and-file members to Alabama authorities. The civil rights organization successfully argued that publicizing these lists would lead to reprisals against its members, which would dissuade them and any potential recruits from associating with the NAACP in the future. The court recognized that there is a vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in ones associations. The Supreme Court has upheld this concept repeatedly. As the court wrote in its 1995 decision McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. ... It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation ... at the hand of an intolerant society.

Like tear gas and rubber bullets, invasion of privacy is a weapon that authorities can use against advocates for change. Just as theres a long history of anonymous speech in this country, there is perhaps an equally long history of government agencies surveilling and targeting activists and organizers. Its happened before. Just think of the years that the FBI spent monitoring Martin Luther King Jr., a campaign that included wiretapping, bugging, spying and collecting information about his sex life.

We also know that its happening right now. According to a memo obtained by BuzzFeed News, the Department of Justice recently expanded the Drug Enforcement Administrations power to conduct covert surveillance on protesters demonstrating against the police killing of George Floyd. The rise of facial recognition technology allows law enforcement agencies to do this on a larger scale than during the civil rights era. Government initiatives like the Janus program enable them to draw on a database of faces compiled from social media. As Clare Garvie of the Center on Privacy and Technology writes, It enables anyone whose face shows up in a photo or video to be identified or misidentified by the police. Put another way, face recognition is a tool that can remove the shield of anonymity from the tens of thousands of Americans out in the streets today, protesting the intolerances of systemic racism and anti-blackness.

At this juncture, engaging in political protest without being able to wear a mask is dangerous in multiple ways. As American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Jay Stanley says, [I]ts the spread of facial recognition that is likely to raise the stakes around anti-mask laws the most. The more accurate and widespread the technology becomes, the more situations will arise where people wont want to show their faces. The cameras that increasingly surround us will allow the police to cheaply and easily identify us and who were with, even if part of a giant crowd.

Its yet another risk that protesters have to contend with and where a mask could offer some protection.

Lata Nott is a Freedom Forum Fellow. Contact her via email at lnott@freedomforum.org, or follow her on Twitter at @LataNott.

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The First Amendment and our rights to speak, assemble and seek change - Hopkinsville Kentucky New Era

A Fractured Supreme Court Strikes Down and Severs the TCPAs Government Debt Exemption, Leaving the Rest of the Statute Intact – JD Supra

This week, a divided Supreme Court issued a plurality opinion in Barr v. American Association of PoliticalConsultants, Inc. (Political Consultants) striking down and severing a 2015 amendment to the TCPA, which exempts government debt collection calls (government debt exemption) from the statutes general prohibition on calls to cell phones (cell phone ban). The effect of this ruling was to affirm the Fourth Circuits decision and leave the cell phone ban intact.

A majority of justices agreed that the government debt exemption violated the First Amendment but disagreed as to everything else: whether strict or intermediate scrutiny governed the First Amendment analysis, whether the government debt exemption failed that analysis and whether the severability and equal protection principles applied by the plurality constitute an appropriate remedy. In focusing on their disagreements, the Justices largely ignored the issue of political speech and the generous First Amendment protection usually afforded it.

The plurality opinion was drafted by Justice Kavanaugh, joined in full by Justices Robert and Alito and in part by Justice Thomas. Kavanaugh began by offering this choice observation: Americans passionately disagree about many things. But they are largely united in their disdain for robocalls. (Kavanaugh Slip Op. at 1). The pluralitys perception of public opinion appears to have been the main driver of its decision and the analysis used to reach its destination (upholding the TCPA) was relatively straightforward.

First, Kavanaugh found that the government debt exemption was a content-based restriction on speech subject to strict scrutiny and that the government conceded that the exemption could not survive strict scrutiny. In doing so, Kavanaugh rejected the AAPCs argument that Congresss act of passing the government debt exemption in 2015, which permits what many consumers view as the most annoying and intrusive type of calls (debt collection), revealed that Congress did not have (or at least no longer had) a genuine concern for consumer privacy. Instead, the AAPC contended, Congress was only concerned with collecting debt owed to the federal government. But, wrote Kavanaugh, As is not infrequently the case with either/or questions, the answer to this either/or question is both. Congress is interested both in collecting government debt and protecting consumer privacy. (Kavanaugh Slip Op. at 11). Second, Kavanaugh determined that severance was appropriate under both general severability and equal treatment principles, which allow unconstitutional laws to be cured by either extending the benefits or burdens to the exempted class, sometimes referred to as leveling up or down. (Kavanaugh Slip Op. at 17-20).

Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg and Kagan concurred in the judgment of the plurality with respect to severability, but wrote separately to emphasize their belief that strict scrutiny did not apply. Sotomayor found that the government debt exemption failed strict scrutiny, while Beyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan found it did not and expressed concern that the plurality was using the First Amendment in a way that could threaten the workings of ordinary regulatory programs posing little threat to the free marketplace of ideas enacted as a result of that public discourse. (Breyer Slip. Op. at 4).

Justice Gorsuch agreed with the pluralitys finding that the government debt exemption was subject to strict scrutiny and violated the First Amendment but disagreed as to why. Of all of the Justices, Gorsuch was most sympathetic to the AAPCs argument that the governments consumer privacy rationale was suspect: [If] the government thinks consumer privacy interests are insufficient to overcome its interest in collecting debts, its hard to see how the government might invoke consumer privacy interests to justify banning political speech. (Gorsuch Slip Op. at 3). Gorsuch and Thomas were also most concerned with protecting speech and affording the AAPC a real remedy. Instead of severing the government debt exemption, which has the perverse effect of expanding the TCPAs restrictions on speech, Gorsuch and Thomas would have leveled up expanded the benefits afforded government debt collection speech to political speech by awarding the AAPC a novel remedy: an injunction prohibiting the TCPAs application to political speech. (Id. at 5).

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A Fractured Supreme Court Strikes Down and Severs the TCPAs Government Debt Exemption, Leaving the Rest of the Statute Intact - JD Supra

WATCH: Young Americans willing to give up First Amendment rights to avoid offending others – Campus Reform

As the cancel culture trend continues to hit college campuses, Campus Reform has reported on a number of cases where colleges and universities have sanctioned professors, and in one case even expelled a student, for posts he made on social media.

Campus Reform Digital Reporter Eduardo Neret recently asked students and young Americans about their thoughts on schools monitoring the social media of students and faculty. He also asked whether they would be willing to sacrifice some of their free speech rights to make sure others on campus feel comfortable.

[RELATED: Free speech zones galore: 5 Times students First Amendment rights were violated on campus in 2019]

I definitely think they should be monitoring the hate speech because that shouldn't be allowed."


Most students and young Americans said they were fine with colleges and universities monitoring social media accounts. Some even said they would willingly turn their accounts over for inspection.

I definitely think they should be monitoring the hate speech because that shouldnt be allowed, one individual said.

She also added she would encourage a school to inspect her social media accounts if it has to do with helping the school in...creating a sense of more safety and security and erasing the hate speech.

[RELATED: Free speech org vows to 'monitor' colleges with classes online]

If thats something I can be helpful for, Id be happy to.

I have nothing to hide, another student said.

Many were quick to say they would trade their free speech rights for the comfort of others on campus.

I would do that, cause I mean if Im just giving up a little of what I care about just to make others feel better, Id do that, another person said. Id make that exchange.

Follow the author of this article on Facebook: @eduneret and Twitter:@eduneret

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WATCH: Young Americans willing to give up First Amendment rights to avoid offending others - Campus Reform

JOHN KRULL: The Constitution, not Trump, protects images of Jesus – Goshen News

Even in an insane time, some bits of idiocy are too great to endure.

Take the debate about whether statues of Jesus will be pulled down amidst the current furor over whether monuments to Confederates and slaveholders should continue to stand.

A few days ago, President Donald Trump said the push to remove marble tributes to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and other historical figures who either took up arms against the United States or held human beings in bondage also could threaten similar representations of Abraham Lincoln and, yes, Jesus.

Trump vowed that never would happen.

Give me break.

Lincoln is a secular historical figure and public decisions about whether to honor or not honor him are just that public decisions. They can be voted on, up or down, just as questions about whether Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Donald Trump should be similarly honored can be.

Jesus is another matter altogether.

Likenesses of Jesus accurate or not cannot and will not be erected or torn down by a vote of the citizenry or through public pressure.

This isnt because the thrice-married Donald Trump, odd defender of supposed traditional values, will man the barricades and fight back the infidels.

No, its because of the U.S. Constitution a document this president really ought to get around to reading someday.

There shouldnt be any statues, busts or other representations of Jesus placed on public property at taxpayer expense in the first place unless, of course, the same tributes are open to and offered to all other faith traditions. The establishment clause of the First Amendment prevents government from endorsing any religion.

Statues of Jesus on private property, on the other hand, cant be touched by public pressure or majority vote. The free exercise clause of that same First Amendment prevents government the instrument of majority opinion from interfering with individual religious expression.

Those clauses in the Constitution exist because the founders wanted to make faith a private, individual matter. We dont get to take votes on whether our neighbor should be a Baptist, a Muslim or an atheist. Such questions are left up to our neighbor. Questions of conscience are her choice and her responsibility.

Not ours.

The right isnt absolute. No right is.

We dont have a First Amendment defense that would allow us to claim that a divine power urged us to shoot up a fast food restaurant or a nightclub and thus get away with murder. Nor can we rob banks and argue that were merely confronting the money changers.

But all reasonable individual expressions of faith including displaying statues or paintings of Jesus Christ are protected.

And, unless the First Amendment is repealed, those expressions of faith always will be.

Its possible Donald Trump does not understand this. The list of things this president does not know is long enough to be considered almost endless.

But, even if thats the case, its irresponsible for him to suggest that statues of Jesus somehow are imperiled for at least two reasons.

The first is that this national debate about how we should view the most painful parts of our countrys past is going to be agonizing enough as it is.

Make no mistake about this. The discussions millions of Americans are having right now about how we should regard the Civil War and our tortured history regarding race probe this nations deepest and most enduring wounds.

To have a president who refuses to be part of the healing process is bad enough.

To have one who insists on deepening those wounds is even worse.

Much worse.

The second reason Trump is irresponsible is that hes misleading Americans about their rights rights hes duty-bound as president to defend.

The fact that he may not understand those rights himself is no excuse.

Hes the president.

He should know his duty.

Even in an insane time, some bits of idiocy should not be tolerated.

This is one of them.

We are making critical coverage of the coronavirus available for free. Please consider subscribing so we can continue to bring you the latest news and information on this developing story.

John Krull is director of Franklin Colleges Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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JOHN KRULL: The Constitution, not Trump, protects images of Jesus - Goshen News

Everyone should have the First Amendment right | News, Sports, Jobs – Marietta Times

Everyone should have the First Amendment right

Recently The Marietta Times in the Our Opinion column ran the following Fight for free speech is always appropriate. Therefore, shouldnt everyone have the right to fight for their opportunity to express their opinion regardless of ones viewpoint, regardless of the subject matter, with the exceptions of salacious views and/or defamatory comments? The First Amendment gives every individual that given right! Sadly, many in the vast media army are choosing the topics they consider appropriate for freedom of speech. Apparently, Christianity is not one of those subjects. Shouldnt all people, including Christians, be given the opportunity to exercise the right of Freedom of Speech?

Deciding what should be said or not said is restricting the First Amendments freedom. Attempting to appease those who disagree with other beliefs or viewpoints is not a function for the First Amendment. Deciding to restrict thought and free speech on a specific subject is considered the task of media and it is blatantly wrong. Regrettably, many people think otherwise. Shouldnt everyone have the use of the First Amendment Right including Christians? Yet many of those who share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through various media modes are stifled yes, even censored.

William O. Douglas, the longest-serving justice in the history of the Supreme Court, said, Restrictions of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.

Indeed, the freedom of speech on different subjects religion, politics, God, etc. can upset, infuriate, and make people uncomfortable. Nevertheless, we, being citizens of America, having been granted the right to exercise our Freedom of Speech, should be given the opportunity and liberty to freely exercise the First Amendment regardless of the subject matter, Christianity included! After all, doesnt the article in Our Opinion column say that to fight for free speech is always appropriate? Indeed, it is!

Nancy Hamilton


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Everyone should have the First Amendment right | News, Sports, Jobs - Marietta Times

Taking a cellphone video of police? Theres a First Amendment for that – Seattle Times

Words matter. Reporting matters. But sometimes, its a video that matters most.

When a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyds neck for more than eight minutes while he died, gasping for breath, a cellphone video shot by a teenage girl on her way to get a snack made the horror undeniable.

The world needed to see what I was seeing, Darnella Frazier told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Days later, when Buffalo police knocked down 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino and a pool of blood spread under on the sidewalk under his head, a cellphone video enraged people all over the world.

It just so happens I was in the right place at the right time with exactly the right angle, Mike Desmond of the local public radio station WBFO explained to the Buffalo News.

Video can change the world or at least a few million opinions. But what about the potentially explosive video that cant be shot or never gets seen because law enforcement has confiscated cameras or arrested the people using them?

This week, New York Universitys First Amendment Watch released A Citizens Guide to Recording the Police a primer for amateur videographers on the rights they are entitled to in these encounters. The guide explains why, under most circumstances, the police can neither seize nor demand to view such recordings though some may try and it provides case-law examples to back up its assertions.

It comes along at a crucial time.

In this new era, we have armies of citizens out on the streets capable of producing evidence that checks the conduct of public officials, said Stephen Solomon, the organizations founding editor. The First Amendment right to record public officials, such as the police performing their official duties in public, is central to our democracy, he said.

Who can forget the bizarre and disturbing arrest of Omar Jimenez and a CNN crew while on live television in Minneapolis on May 29? That incident was roundly denounced by press freedom groups and resulted in an apology from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz: There is absolutely no reason something like this should have happened.

But less heralded and far less visible offenses have happened throughout the United States, as the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker makes clear.

Sue Brisk, a freelance photographer, told the Tracker that she was photographing demonstrations at 42nd Street in Times Square that same day with her NYPD-issued press pass clearly displayed. I watched the police beat people with billy clubs and then they threw a woman up against a pole right in front of me, Brisk said. After that its a blur.

Brisk said that, before she knew what was happening, her head was slammed to the ground and she found herself pinned under at least three New York City police officers. Weeks later, she was still trying to retrieve her camera.

By the Trackers count, well over 400 aggressions against the press including dozens of examples of equipment being damaged have marred recent Black Lives Matter protests.

The NYU guide cites a 2012 U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit decision that drew a direct connection between the creation of a recording and something thats better understood to be constitutionally protected: the publication or dissemination of a recording.

The right to publish or broadcast an audio or audiovisual recording would be insecure, or largely ineffective, the decision in ACLU v. Alvarez stated, if making the recording were unprotected. Restricting the use of [a recording] device suppresses speech just as effectively as restricting the dissemination of the resulting recording.

However, the right to record police isnt, well, bulletproof, at this moment.

About three-fifths of the U.S. population lives in states where federal appeals courts have recognized a First Amendment right to record the police in public, the guide says. The U.S. Supreme Court hasnt ruled directly on the issue.

That means legal protections arent nailed down everywhere. Yet the outlook is good: Given the resounding support so far for this First Amendment protection, it seems highly likely that the remaining federal appeals courts would reach the same conclusion if the issue appears on their docket.

Of course, the legal right to record is no guarantee of respectful treatment when events are unfolding. And they are small comfort to journalists or members of the public who have been injured or had their equipment seized as they tried to document protests.

Still, Solomon told me, its helpful to know your rights to confidently assert them when it matters most. After all like 17-year-old Darnella Frazier who started a movement by pointing her cellphone almost anyone can capture evidence of what the world needed to see.

Should that happen, its good to know the First Amendment has your back.

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Taking a cellphone video of police? Theres a First Amendment for that - Seattle Times

Read the First Amendment | Letters To The Editor – The Central Virginian

The June 11 offer by Dan Braswell for a reasonable review of his writings is typical of the party-affiliated vortex of distraction from the issue Thats what I said but I didnt say that which is echoed from Washington too often.

The issue is citizens right to free speech. Braswell and Del. John McGuire need to review two things: The First Amendment right to free speech and the Supreme Courts decision about public officials blocking citizens from posting to their social media accounts.

The First Amendment provides the public with a venue to petition the government for redress of grievances. Since McGuire is the peoples government representative, his blocking access to and deleting comments on his Facebook account is unconstitutional and prevents us from voicing our concerns.

So where should we go if McGuire is emotionally incapable of dealing with opposition? He ignores the concerns of constituents, which is the point. We have the right to express our views to him regardless of his immature attitude. All citizens of the 56th district should be concerned about delegates who are unwilling to communicate with the public they serve.

This should be disturbing to everyone, even Braswell who actively and passively advocates McGuires abuse of First Amendment rights instead of performing an intervention to overcome those feelings of inadequacy.

More important is McGuires intimidation and bullying to prevent the publics right of access to his office. Supposedly, he took another oath to uphold the Constitution when he became delegate, but probably had his fingers crossed. If he cant perform his service to the public, why is he in office?

Why shouldnt he answer questions? Why shouldnt he be held accountable? Whenever the people of the 56th district want answers, his approach seems to be to bunker down. He cant even set up a venue where everyone is comfortable the cause for that discomfort shows itself with his Facebook rants. All his ranting seems to be the overall political strategy of his party. If we could get a coherent post from McGuire, it would help.

Right now, with all his campaigning and overall lack of communication skills, he only displays limited ability to grasp complex and comprehensive issues that are necessary for public safety. His narrow scope belies the broader perspective he cant cope with.

The United States Supreme Court decided that Trumps attempts to block citizens from his Twitter account because they didnt praise him enough, or at all, are unconstitutional. It decided that a public officials social media account cannot be used as a propaganda tool and only allow access to the party faithful for comments. This decision also applies to McGuires Facebook page.

It must be that McGuire has that same sensitivity to criticism as too many of his colleagues.

For all the glorification of military service as justification for public service, Braswell made me think of a military phrase that can be applied to McGuire. As paraphrased: Cowardice in the face of constituents!

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Read the First Amendment | Letters To The Editor - The Central Virginian

Pence says First Amendment is why Trump campaign held Tulsa rally despite local health officials’ warnings – Yahoo News

At the coronavirus task force briefing Friday, Vice President Mike Pence was asked a question about why the Trump campaign held a rally in Tulsa, Okla., against the advice of local health officials. He responded by citing the First Amendment.

- On the campaign, it really does sound though like you're saying do as we say, not as we do. You're telling people to listen to local officials, but in Tulsa you defied local health officials to have an event that even though you say it didn't result in a spike, dozens of Secret Service agents, dozens of campaign staffers are now quarantined after positive tests. And then in Arizona, one of the hardest-hit states, you packed a church with young people who weren't wearing masks. So how can you say that the campaign is not part of the problem that Dr. Fauci laid out?

MIKE PENCE: Well, I want to remind you again that the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. And even in a health crisis, the American people don't forfeit our constitutional rights. And working with state officials, as we did in Oklahoma and as we did in Arizona, we're creating settings where people can choose to participate in the political process, and we'll continue to do that.

I think it's I think it's really important that we recognize how important-- how important freedom and personal responsibility are to this entire equation but allowing younger Americans--


MIKE PENCE: --allowing younger Americans to understand, particularly in the counties that are most impacted. The unique challenges that we're facing in their age group we think is important.

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Pence says First Amendment is why Trump campaign held Tulsa rally despite local health officials' warnings - Yahoo News

Lawyer On How Restraining Order On CMPD Will Protect Protesters’ First Amendment Rights – WFAE

Protests of racial injustice and police brutality continued this weekend in Charlotte. As usual, Charlotte Mecklenburg police were on the scene, but they were operating under a temporary restraining order. A superior court judge on Friday signed the order halting the department's use of riot control agents like tear gas and flash bang grenades against peaceful protesters. That was a response to a lawsuit filed by groups including the local chapter of the NAACP, the ACLU of North Carolina and Charlotte Uprising. Alex Heroy helped to argue their case in court. He joins Morning Edition host Lisa Worf.

Worf: Good morning, Mr. Heroy.

Heroy: Good morning.

Worf: So how much does this restraining order change CMPD tactics? After all, CMPD says it has only used riot control agents like tear gas once people began throwing rocks and frozen water bottles at officers.

Heroy: I think it requires stricter adherence to their policy and puts limits on the policies. There's CMPD directives are, they're not always to set specific on the use of force continuum and sort of what's allowed and what's not allowed. So this is put in place. We filed a lawsuit to really protect the peaceful protesters that have been victims of, what we thought of as sort of a gross assault on their First Amendment rights, at least in particular on June 2.

Worf: So when you say it puts limits on some of their tactics, are you saying because it adds a certain level of scrutiny that wasn't there before, even though CMPD says this doesn't change that much?

Heroy: Yes. Yes. I mean, so on June 2, when you had three to four hundred protesters who are all largely acting very peaceful, marching with their hands up. No real issues that we've seen in the videos. And then the police boxed them in and gassed them and shot at them. That's not OK. That's across the line. That's way over the line. Even if CMPD says that there were some outliers throwing a water bottle or even a rock would justify that kind of use of force. And it doesn't justify that use of force indiscriminately against a large crowd of peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. That's just not allowed. It's not OK. And we had to put a stop to it and not let it, risk it happening again. That's what we had to move for this emergency restraining order to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Worf: No CMPD Deputy Chief Jeff Estes said Friday that the one difference it makes for the department is that it prohibits officers from using riot control agents like tear gas again against people who are destroying property. So officers would have to intervene physically to remove those people. Do you have concerns this could further escalate a situation?

Heroy: Well, I don't think this CMPD's communication was an accurate summary of the order. The restraining order restricts actions against peaceful protesters. If there is an individual who is causing a destruction during a peaceful protest, CMPD is supposed to go in and remove that that individual, if they're destroying property there's a use of force continuum that CMPD is allowed to use. It is not a, this is not a, an order that allows or forces CMPD to just simply let people go commit criminal activity. That is not it at all. It is a restriction on what use of force can be used against peaceful protesters gathering.

Worf: Now, this is a temporary restraining order until the lawsuit can be heard. What does the lawsuit itself seek?

Heroy: So the lawsuit itself seeks a permanent restraining order that the same thing. We're also asking for what's called a declaratory judgment against which would find that the dispersal order allegedly announced on June 2 was ineffective and did not comply with CMPD policy.

Worf: And beyond the use of tear gas and other riot control agents, how did the groups you represent want to change police tactics when it comes to handling protests?

Heroy: I say that, you know, there's a lot of groups that are plaintiffs in the lawsuitm it's a lot of different opinions. So I don't want to speak for the entire group because it's a range with a lot of things that need to be changed with police. But I think the overarching issue is the respect and lack of respect and improving that, greatly improving that and community relations with the police.

Worf: That's Alex Heroy, who helped argue the case in court on behalf of groups, including the local chapter of the NAACP, the ACLU of North Carolina and Charlotte Uprising.

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Lawyer On How Restraining Order On CMPD Will Protect Protesters' First Amendment Rights - WFAE

About the Town: Don’t abuse freedoms | Opinion – The Baldwin Bulletin

THE FIRST AMENDMENT of our Constitution provides for five important freedoms and they dont deserve to be abused.

The First Amendment reads, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to protest the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd.

But looting, burning of stores and destruction of businesses is an unacceptable way to protest the murder of George Floyd.

Protests and demonstrations are not new in this 200 year old democracy.

The protests of the 60s ranged from the Civil Rights movement to our involvement in the Vietnam War. Subsequently we have experienced the Gay Rights Movement, the Environmental Movement, plus a number of issues have changed our lives in many ways.

We have experienced a great deal of social change because of these movements, made possible by the First Amendment.

The First Amendment allows us to speak to issues and redress government regarding its policies and legislation. The recent protests are an excellent example that there is a need for change of police culture and how we provide safety and protection of citizens.

Its becoming clear that we may have expected police to perform too many roles. Its also clear the training of officers is not adequate and/or disciplines and accountability are not adequate in some departments.

The protests/protestors are rightfully calling attention to this. But action by others who damage property, injure people and place economic burdens on neighborhoods should never be acceptable and distract from the goal of the protest.

Racism is so deep-seated we havent been able to overcome it. In the George Floyd case, people around the world were witnesses to a crime and saw no one take an immediate action when the officer was taking Floyds last breath away. Are we going to continue to be witnesses to injustice?

Protests will continue to be in order, but if you are protesting the State government, go to the steps of the State Capitol. If you are protesting County government, go to the County Courthouse. If you are protesting issues in your own city, go to the City Hall and clearly state your issue.

America has changed, but tough questions have been ignored. We have made some progress with equal opportunity and equal rights and I do not think there is justice for all.

Hopefully, now is the time we no longer ignore the tough questions on racial inequality and the current protests will result in a major shift in America so there is more equal opportunity, equal rights and justice for all.

-- Special to the Baldwin Bulletin

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About the Town: Don't abuse freedoms | Opinion - The Baldwin Bulletin

Leader of group that flew Confederate flag over Talladega wrongly says NASCAR infringed on the First Amendment – Yahoo Sports

The leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans needs to reread the Bill of Rights.

The group is claiming responsibility for hiring a plane to fly a Confederate flag and a banner that said Defund NASCAR over Talladega on Sunday. It was the first race at the Alabama track since NASCAR banned fans from flying the Confederate flag at track properties.

NASCAR is a private company. It has the absolute right to prohibit certain items at its tracks. Yet Paul Gramling tried to tell the Columbia Daily Herald that NASCAR was infringing on the First Amendment rights of fans by banning the flag.

Who wants to tell Gramling that the First Amendment doesnt apply to private company prohibitions? From the Daily Herald:

NASCARs banning the display of the Confederate battle flag by its fans is nothing less than trampling upon Southerners First Amendment Right of free expression, Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander in Chief Paul C. Gramling Jr. said. This un-American act shall not go unchallenged. [On Sunday], members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Confederate Air Force displayed its disapproval of NASCARs trampling upon the First Amendment Rights of Southerners. During and before the start of the NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama, our plane flew a banner announcing a drive to defund NASCAR.

It is the hope of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that NASCAR fans will be allowed the fundamental American right of displaying pride in their family and heritage. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is proud of the diversity of the Confederate military and our modern Southland. We believe NASCARs slandering of our Southern heritage only further divides our nation. The Sons of Confederate Veterans will continue to defend not only our right but the Right of all Americans to celebrate their heritage. We trust NASCAR will do the same.

Theres something hilariously bizarre about the leader of a group honoring the heritage of those who fought against the United States saying that something clearly allowed by law and the U.S. Constitution is un-American. Even the mayor of Columbia, Tennessee, Chaz Molder, made sure to point out how NASCAR was not violating the groups constitutional rights and that the group does not represent Columbia. Period.

Its also unclear how, exactly, NASCAR could be defunded. Since its, you know, a private company and not a public entity. The only way that defunding NASCAR could happen is if its television contracts were canceled by Fox and NBC, and sponsors started pulling out of the series. Thats not going to happen. Hell, NASCAR wouldnt have taken the steps to ban the Confederate flag if it didnt think that the move would be a net positive to attract new viewers and corporate sponsors.

The group has tried to sponsor a NASCAR car in the past, but NASCAR said no. NASCAR has not allowed the use of the Confederate flag in official capacities for decades and this months ban comes five years after the sanctioning body simply requested fans not to fly the flag at tracks. That request happened after a white supremacist killed nine parishioners at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Nick Brombergis a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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Leader of group that flew Confederate flag over Talladega wrongly says NASCAR infringed on the First Amendment - Yahoo Sports

FEC Commissioner Caroline Hunter resigns from post, says commission ‘needs to respect the First Amendment’ – ABC News

Caroline Hunter, a member of the Federal Election Commission who regularly clashed with her fellow commissioners, resigned on Friday, according to a letter obtained by ABC News.

Hunter, a Republican, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2008, regularly butted heads with FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat also nominated by former President Bush.

She will stay on with the FEC until July 3. The White House has already nominated Allen Dickerson, the legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, to take her place.

In her resignation letter, Hunter has some strong criticism for Weintraub, though she is not mentioned by name.

"The FEC would benefit greatly from new faces and fresh perspectives. It needs Commissioners who will respect the First Amendment, understand the limits of the FEC's jurisdiction, and remember that Congress established the FEC to prevent single-party control, with every significant decision requiring bipartisan approval," Hunter wrote.

"One Commissioner -- who has served for more than a decade past the expiration of her term -- routinely mischaracterizes disagreements among Commissioners about the law as 'dysfunction,' rather than a natural consequence of the FEC's unique structure, misrepresents the jurisdiction of the agency and deliberately enables outside groups to usurp the Commission's role in litigation and chill protected speech," she added. "The American people deserve better."

Federal Election Commission (FEC) Commissioner Ellen Weintraub testifies during a hearing before the Elections Subcommittee of House Committee on House Administration, Nov. 3, 2011 on Capitol Hill.

With Hunter's resignation, the FEC is again left with just three out of six commissioners, meaning that it is one vote short of the minimum four votes needed to act on any substantive matters.

The FEC was left in the same place with no enforcement power for nearly a year, after former Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen resigned from his position last August, until recently.

In May, the Senate finally confirmed President Donald Trump's appointee, Trey Trainor, a Texas election attorney, to fill one of the vacancies on the commission, restoring the quorum.

"It's keenly disappointing for the FEC to lose its quorum just a blink of an eye after we regained it," said Weintraub. "But of course I wish Caroline well in this and all her future endeavors."

The remaining members of the commission are Republican Chair Trainor, Democratic Commissioner Weintraub, and Independent Vice Chair Steven Walther.

Without the four-person quorum, it will not be able to initiate audits, engage in rulemaking, vote on enforcement matters or even issue an advisory opinion or hold meetings.

The commission will continue to perform its important day-to-day duties of making details of 2020 campaign contributions and expenditures available, and its enforcement arm will still review complaints and make recommendations to the commission on those matters.

Scenes from the Federal Election Commission headquarters.

Trevor Potter, president of Washington-based nonpartisan ethics group Campaign Legal Center and a former Republican chair of the FEC, called for a prompt replacement of Hunter to restore the quorum, saying her resignation has left "democratic elections with significantly less government oversight."

"A huge majority of voters are concerned about the enforcement of our campaign finance laws, and Hunter's resignation leaves their democratic elections with significantly less government oversight," Potter said in a statement. "Elections in 2016 and 2018 saw campaign finance violations including: illegal foreign spending, a lack of transparency around the sources of millions in election spending, and candidates working illegally with super PACs."

"Americans understand that the campaign finance system correlates directly to their families' quality of life," he continued. "The corruption of our democracy by unprecedented amounts of money in our elections from wealthy special interests diminishes the voices of average citizens. A strong and functional FEC is vital to protecting our democracy, fighting corruption, and holding politicians accountable for the campaign money they receive."

A source familiar with Hunter's thinking told ABC News that Weintraub's decision to let outside groups file lawsuits directly in federal court against other groups and individuals is something on which Hunter strongly disagreed with Weintraub.

"Fire alarms are sometimes housed in boxes labeled 'Break glass in case of emergency.' The Federal Election Campaign Act has such a box; it's the provision that allows complainants to sue respondents directly when the Federal Election Commission fails to enforce the law itself. In the 44-year history of the FEC, this provision has never been fully utilized. Today, I'm breaking the glass," Weintraub said in 2018.

This incident "took the dysfunction to a new level," the source explained.

Hunter served on the FEC for 12 years and as the commission chair three times and plans to join "the legal team of Stand Together, a philanthropic organization dedicated to tackling some of the biggest challenges of our times, including reforming the nation's criminal justice system, strengthening K-12 education, helping neighbors beat poverty and addiction, empowering everyone to find fulfilling work, and more," according to a press release.

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FEC Commissioner Caroline Hunter resigns from post, says commission 'needs to respect the First Amendment' - ABC News