Free speech should not come at the expense of safety – University Star

Amira Van Leeuwen, Opinion Columnist

College campuses tend to encompass an overwhelming amount of different opinions and ideas when it comes to controversial topics. The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, press, expression, assembly and the right to petition, which select college students tend to use as a scapegoat to express their racist ideologies. Although not necessarily a bad thing, it can pose a magnitude of threats to college life.

Texas State is not the only university plagued with white supremacy, racist ideology and fascism. Two years ago, a large banner hung above Alkek Library with the painted words of America is a White Nation, shortly after the 2016 presidential election. A Boston College campus faced a similar ordeal in 2018 when a student vandalized a dorm with racist graffiti, which was later linked to a student who expressed support for the Ku Klux Klan and Hitlers perfect race.

It is often left unsaid how these white supremacy and alt-right groups on campus provide an unsafe environment for college students that do not share such views. Lives are often taken as a result of hate groups who believe in things that have resulted in past genocide and racial segregation, which should have diminished dramatically in the late 1900s.

College campuses are playing tug-of-war with students who argue they have the right to express harmful ideals and hate speech. If there is any backlash from college campus officials, students cry First Amendment violation.

However, the U.S. Constitutions First Amendment does not protect behavior that is targeting, harassing, inciting violence or creating a hostile environment for vulnerable students.

Campus life has entered a new realm of protest and de-platforming other social groups. The issue is not students being prohibited from expressing their opinions; the issue is when equality and free speech are directly opposed in a seditious manner. In times when students have drawn attention to high-strung situations relating to a violation of the First Amendment, universities have tended to provide a general statement to soften the blow.

Although the perseverance of college administrators is more than admirable, the issue cannot be contained in a box with a few words placed in a mass email. Safety on campus should be just as important as ensuring students right to free speech.

However, when this right infringes on the safety of others, it is constitutionally prohibited if encouraging unlawful behavior. The Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) held the government may forbid incitement speech, which is likely to produce lawless action.

The right to free speech is vital to civic education. Without it, society would be unable to have public discourse among students. A person has the right to their opinion at any given time unless it stimulates an act of violence.

The polarization of the U.S. has led to severe acts of violence on college campuses. A recent example can be seen when an altercation arose on campus after a student knocked off anothers Make America Great Again hat. This resulted in a hostile situation leading to the arrest of four people.

The U.S. Constitution is a living, breathing document up for interpretation in any situation. There is no such thing as valuing another persons First Amendment rights over others unalienable rights.

Protecting a students right to feel safe on campus needs to be weighed heavily when the legitimacy of right-winged idealists are discussed.

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Shattering the First Amendment – The Riverdale Press

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., was 90 years old when he finally retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1932 the only Supreme Court justice to reach that age on the bench until John Paul Stevens in 2010.

In his 30 years on the bench, Justice Holmes would ink his legacy on a number of legal interpretations that shaped the 20th century. The biggest? The clear and present danger test, ultimately championed by the court for decades that declared certain types of speech as not protected by the First Amendment if such speech could be deemed to damage the public welfare.

One of the earliest cases affected by clear and present danger was a 1919 case challenging the conviction of Charles Schenck, a member of Philadelphias Socialist Party, who mailed out thousands of flyers to young men encouraging them to resist the military draft, claiming it was a violation of the 13th Amendment which prohibited involuntary servitude.

Schenck and another Socialist Party member, Elizabeth Baer, were convicted of violating the Espionage Act that prohibited any interference in the U.S. military, including its recruitment efforts.

Schencks lawyers argued his flyers were an expression of free speech. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed unanimously. In writing the opinion supporting the majority, Justice Holmes acknowledges that in many places and in ordinary times the claims made my Schenck and Baer would have been within their constitutional rights.

But these were not ordinary times. The country was in the midst of World War I, and soldiers were needed in the European trenches. And because of that, the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done, Holmes said.

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force.

No, Justice Holmes didnt tap into his Book of Old Cliches for that line. Hes the one credited for originating it. And it would serve to headline a policy that would stifle anti-war speech all the way through Vietnam. It was there, in 1969, the court ruled the government cant target speech unless its directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action, instead of the previous approach of speech that simply advocates violence.

So why such a long-winded history lesson on free speech? Because this is a lesson we cant lose sight of, especially when phrases like you cant shout fire in a crowded theater are more popular than ever when it comes to First Amendment debate.

And it begs the question: Where is the line where protected speech ends? Should such a line exist?

The First Amendment is intended to protect all of us from punishment or retaliation of any sort over our free speech from the government. But it doesnt require you or I to grant anyone were talking to those same freedoms. In fact, freedom of speech is never the same as freedom from rebuttal or even consequence. And there could indeed be some speech that ultimately results in that from people or entities who are not government related.

Thats highlighted even more today through social media platforms. In what was once speech limited to how many barrels of ink one owned, it seems just about anyone can have their words go viral and become part of the public discussion.

There are many positive aspects of that especially since it opens conversations that information gatekeepers would rather remain closed. But it also means that even everyday people like you, us, and our neighbors are under greater scrutiny for the things that we say.

Last year, Ethical Culture Fieldston School took some heat after a speaker from Columbia Law School, A. Kayum Ahmed, who reportedly said the victims of the Holocaust and violence who have since established control of Israel have become perpetrators of violence against Palestinians.

This is Ahmeds opinion, and whether we agree with it or not, he has the right to express that opinion. Whether doing so in front of teenagers at a school event was the proper venue for that is up for debate. But even dissenting opinions are worthy of exploration and discussion, as part of the free exchange of ideas that our Founding Fathers had hoped to perpetrate in the establishment of this country.

Some media outlets not so balanced in their political leanings had pressured Fieldston school officials to do something about it, and that something seems to have come in the firing of history teacher J.B. Brager.

Brager took to Twitter not only to speak out against Israels reported treatment of Palestinians, but also over how Fieldston handled the Ahmed statement, saying that when institutions of learning bow to political pressure to disavow historical reality, what can educators do within that institution?

One might argue thats a discussion best had internally with the schools administration, even Fieldstons board of directors. Brager, however, chose to air it publicly on social media. And its because of that at least according to those trying to get Brager reinstated this teacher lost their job. (Brager uses the "they/them" pronouns.)

Its unfortunate what happened to Brager. Its unfortunate that a member of Fieldstons faculty didnt feel they could start a conversation with the schools administration on how it would deal with hot-button discussions like those of Israel and Palestinians.

But then again, freedom of speech is not equivalent to the freedom of rebuttal or consequence. Many have been martyred (both figuratively and literally) for expressing unpopular opinions. Look at those being arrested in rallies and protests across the country.

While the government might dance around free speech in these arrests (handcuffing protesters for other issues unrelated to speech), the fact is that we are never free of consequence for speaking how we feel.

But we must stop punishing each other for the opinions we hold, and just listen. Even if we dont change our minds, every single person has a right to express their opinion, whether we agree with it or not.

There are limits to free speech, even when it comes to the First Amendment. But those limits should be as narrow as possible, because with every crack we create in the foundation of free speech, thats one crack closer to shatter.


Shattering the First Amendment - The Riverdale Press

City of Scottsdale and The Satanic Temple take the stands in First Amendment-based case – FOX 10 News Phoenix

City of Scottsdale and satanic temple group take the stands in First Amendment-based case

The trial between the city of Scottsdale and the satanic temple is underway. Three years ago, the Scottsdale City Council denied a satanic temple member's request to deliver an invocation at its meeting. Now, the satanic temple argues Wednesday in court that its First Amendment right was violated.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The trial between the city of Scottsdale and The Satanic Temple is underway.

Three years ago, the Scottsdale City Council denied arequest by a member ofThe Satanic Temple to deliver an invocation at its meeting. Now, The Satanic Temple argues Wednesday in court that its First Amendment right was violated.

The group had no ties to the city, which is required to be able to give that invocation. Michelle Short, a group member, was supposed to give that prayer. She was on the stand and claimed several other groups outside of the city were able to give their prayers.

She listed a few churches that did not have addresses within the city limits there.

Short admitted that during cross-examination thatshe is not a member of the Scottsdale community. She also admitted to never contacting anyone within the city, any representative, about her beliefs and what type of invocation that she was wanting to give.

She argues that she feared for her safety should she havedisclosed it prior to the meeting.

Scottsdale City Manager,Jim Thompson, also took the stand, saying that other groups had substantial connections to the city, which is why they were able to say their prayers, and claims the satanic temple group didn'thave a substantial connection to the city.

He says others in the past did not live withinthe city limits at the time, but they did have those strong ties.

The court session will resume Thursday morning.

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City of Scottsdale and The Satanic Temple take the stands in First Amendment-based case - FOX 10 News Phoenix

Guest column: First Amendment on the docket at the Supreme Court – The Mercury

Kendra Espinoza, a single mother of two young girls, never dreamed that sending her daughters to a Christian school in Kalispell, Montana, would lead her to the national stage. But on Wednesday, her lawsuit, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, and its far-reaching implications could impact Pennsylvanians education options.

Espinoza homeschooled her daughters until her husband unexpectedly left, forcing her to enroll them in the local public school. The school wasnt a good fit for her daughters they werent thriving. Stillwater Christian School seemed like the perfect solution, but tuition was more than she could afford. Still, she worked extra jobs, held a big yard sale, and raffled quilts to come up with the money. Her older daughter even mowed lawns to contribute.

It was barely enough.

Then, Espinoza learned of a recently enacted program in Montana, similar to Pennsylvanias tax credit scholarships, that could help her afford tuition for future schoolyears. Her glimmer of hope was short lived, though. Montanas program bars religious schools, and the state refused to grant her daughters scholarships.

Espinoza felt that amounted to discrimination. She and two other moms in similar situations sued the department with the help of nonprofit law firm, the Institute for Justice. But the Montana Supreme Court doubled down, ruling the entire scholarship program unconstitutional in 2018.

The families appealed and are now before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that ending the scholarship program because it included religious schools violates the First Amendment.

At issue is the Montana constitutions Blaine Amendment, which prohibits the government from giving public funds to religious schools. There are similar provisions in 36 other state constitutions, including right here in Pennsylvania. These amendments trace their roots to the late 1800s, when anti-Catholic sentiment was rampant and protestant legislators sought to starve them of public funds. Congressman James Blaine and many other anti-Catholic legislators required prospective states to adopt Blaine Amendments in order to be admitted to the union and persuaded many existing states to adopt similar amendments.

Now, the Supreme Court will decide if these provisions violate the U.S. Constitution.

The issues presented in Espinoza are not new to the Court. In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Supreme Court upheld an Ohio school voucher program, ruling that it was neutral with respect to religion since parents not the government are the ones directing government aid to the schools.

And in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, the Court found that Missouris denial of a church application for new playground surfacing was a violation of the churchs First Amendment protections by denying a generally available benefit solely on account of the [applicants] religious identity.

If the Court follows the same logic, Espinoza and the other Montana moms stand a good chance of winning. Similar to the situation in Zelman, the Montana program was impartial to religion and was designed to help disadvantaged students. Moreover, the ruling in Trinity Lutheran created a precedent for greater scrutiny when the state excludes a church from public benefits.

With these cases setting the stage, the Supreme Court has the opportunity in Espinoza to defend the rights of parents to access public programs without comprising their constitutional rights. As a result, anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments in Montana and dozens of other states, may be laid to rest.

Such an outcome will liberate students across the country including in Pennsylvania to pursue broader educational choices that satisfy their needs. While Pennsylvanias tax credit scholarships pass constitutional muster, removing our Blaine Amendment will open the door to new educational freedoms for students.

If we win at the Supreme Court, it makes a difference for my girls and for so many other families, says Kendra Espinoza. I believe school choice is important for all families, not just for myself and my children. Its my right as a parent to choose how my children are educated not the governments right.

Colleen Hroncich is a senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation (CommonwealthFoundation.org), Pennsylvanias free market think tank.

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Guest column: First Amendment on the docket at the Supreme Court - The Mercury

First Amendment panel to take place in Paducah – WPSD Local 6


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First Amendment panel to take place in Paducah - WPSD Local 6

Education choice could shift the black vote | Editorial Columns – Brunswick News

Sometimes the timing of events is so auspicious that it is hard to attribute it to coincidence.

The week of Jan. 26 is National School Choice week.

First observed in 2011, for the 10th time, events will take place around the nation that are focused on raising awareness about parental choice in K-12 education and the options available to parents and children.

A few days before National School Choice week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which will address the constitutionality of the so-called Blaine Amendments, arguably the greatest obstacle to school choice the nation faces.

Named after Rep. James G. Blaine, who attempted but failed to enact a federal ban on funding religious schools, 37 states subsequently adopted the provision in their state constitutions.

In the case of Espinoza, the state of Montana passed a law allowing dollar-for-dollar tax credits for funds contributed to scholarship programs that parents could use for paying for education in private schools. In that some of these funds would be used for religious schools, the constitutionality of the program was challenged, and the state wound up trashing the whole program.

The hope of many, including me, is that the court will find the rationale behind the Blaine Amendments unconstitutional. It will be a victory for both religious freedom and education freedom.

It is perverse that the First Amendment, which is meant to guarantee religious freedom, has become a tool for discrimination against religion.

After all, when public funds are available for education of any kind and some parents use those funds for a religious school, this is a private choice, not a government mandate. How can this in any way be understood as government establishing religion? It most certainly interferes with the free exercise of religion, which the First Amendment protects.

A decision wiping out the Blaine Amendment prohibitions will also be another reason to congratulate President Donald Trump, who has given us this solidly conservative Supreme Court.

Its also another factor in why black voters may realign their political allegiances.

Education freedom is an issue that deeply divides Republicans and Democrats. And it is an issue on which blacks are more aligned with Republicans.

In a May 2019 poll by Education Next, 70% of black Democrats expressed support for targeted vouchers, 60% for universal vouchers and 55% for charter schools.

It makes sense. Black parents understand the importance of education. Yet their kids are trapped in the worst public schools in the country.

Black parents understand the simple logic of education freedom and the benefits of parents having the power to choose where to send their children to school.

President Trump is now advancing Education Freedom Scholarships, which would provide for up to $5 billion in annual tax credits for donations made to scholarships that fund education-choice opportunities.

The Democratic presidential candidates across the board want to slam the door on charter schools and education choice. They all see one answer to K-12 education: more federal dollars for public school monopolies. Democrats have their eye on political contributions from teachers unions, not on what children, particularly black children, need.

The electoral model that Republicans need to follow for 2020 is that of the 2018 Florida governors race. Ron DeSantis defeated his black opponent, liberal Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, by a margin of 0.4%. DeSantis got 14% of the black vote and 18% of the black female vote. By most analyses, the explanation for this unusually high black support is that DeSantis is a stalwart on education freedom and parental choice.

Education could, and should, be a defining issue in 2020, and be what makes a critical difference in moving black votes into the Republican column.

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Education choice could shift the black vote | Editorial Columns - Brunswick News

Hearing Wednesday: EFF Urges Court To Rule That Blogger’s Opinion of Open Source Licensing Agreement is Protected by the First Amendment – EFF

San Francisco, CaliforniaOn Wednesday, January 22, at 9 am, EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams will tell a federal appeals court that a lower court correctly dismissed a defamation lawsuit against a blogger, finding that his criticisms of a companys business practices were opinions about an unsettled legal issue protected by the First Amendment.

EFF is representing Bruce Perens, founder of the Open Source movement, who criticized restrictions Open Source Security Inc. (OSS) placed on customers of its security patch software for the Linux Operating System. OSS sued Perens in response. The lower court found that OSSs lawsuit not only failed to plausibly state a claim for defamation, but also that it ran afoul of a California statute that protects defendants from SLAPPs, short for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are malicious lawsuits that aim to silence critics by forcing victims to spend time and money to fight the lawsuit itselfdraining their resources and chilling their right to free speech.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Williams will tell a panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges that Perenss blog post merely expressed his opinion about an unsettled legal issue of concern to a worldwide Open Source community, and that Perens disclosed the factual basis for that opinion. OSS, which disagrees with Perens, was free to state its disagreement publicly, but it was not free to sue Mr. Perens for exercising his First Amendment right, Williams will tell the court.

Read EFFs filing in the Perens case:https://www.eff.org/document/oss-v-perens-answering-brief

WHO: EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams

WHAT:OSS v. Perens

WHERE:Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals-James R. Browning CourthouseCourtroom 1, 3rd Floor, Room 33895 7th Street, San Francisco CA 94103

WHEN:WednesdayJanuary 219 am

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Hearing Wednesday: EFF Urges Court To Rule That Blogger's Opinion of Open Source Licensing Agreement is Protected by the First Amendment - EFF

Citizens United and the Big Picture – Wisconsin Examiner

As this weeks floor sessions began in both the Senate and the Assembly on Tuesday, a group of legislators and campaign finance reform advocates held a sparsely attended press conference in the Capitol to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Courts Citizens United decision, and to point out how money in politics has hijacked our democracy.

A resolution introduced by Assembly Democrats from Madison, Rep. Chris Taylor and Rep. Lisa Subeck, joined by Rep. Melissa Sargent, would amend the Wisconsin Constitution to make it clear that money is not speech, and corporations do not have a First Amendment right to unlimited political spending.

The resolutions authors dont have any illusions that it will make it to the floor this session. But it is directly tied to pretty much every issue that comes up and doesnt in our state Legislature.

This is the backdrop to the frustrating politics here in Madison and across the nation.

Citizens United opened the floodgates to money in politics. In Wisconsin, Matt Rothschild of the campaign finance watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign pointed out, independent expenditure groups have increased their spending by 1700% in state governors races over the last 10 years. Meanwhile expenditures by outside groups has grown five-fold.

That means that the voices of the citizens of Wisconsin are completely drowned out, Rothschild said.

Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) pointed out the link between Citizens United and Legislative inaction on a variety of issues that are important to the public.

If you want to know why common sense gun safety measures favored by a majority of Wisconsinites of every political stripe have not passed, its because the NRA has blocked the way, Hansen explained.

Wisconsinites also support universal, affordable health care. That wont happen as long as the insurance industry is opposed, Hansen said. People want clean drinking water, safe places for their kids to swim and fish. But before you get your hopes up that all that talk of clean water will amount to anything, you may want to talk to WMC [Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce] first, because they would be the one that would have to allow it and its highly unlikely that theyll do that.

Why are we siphoning money out of our cash-strapped public school system to cover tuition at private schools? Among other school-privatization lobbyists, Betsy de Vos group American Federation for Children spent $7 million over the last 10 years to try to elect officials here who will do their bidding, Rothschild explained. State legislators, he added, have become water boys for the Koch brothers and Betsy De Vos.

The Koch brothers, Charles and David, who died last year, were the billionaires who businesses helped them finance Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group, and the political aspirations of numerous Republicans

Taylor connected the flood of money into political campaigns to other efforts to hijack democracy, including Wisconsins partisan gerrymandering, the voter purge, voter ID, and other obstruction laws that prevent people who should be able to vote from voting.

Taylor asked people to imagine if the Founders had drafted language in the U.S. Constitution that said your free speech rights are conditioned on how much money you have. That, she said, is the effect of Citizens United.

Taylor and Subeck are circulating their resolution, seeking cosponsors. Hansen and Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) will sponsor a Senate version.

Its only in the halls of this building that this is a partisan issue, said Subeck, acknowledging that the measure has precious little chance of moving forward under the current Republican leadership.

Its the ultimate Catch 22, she said. As long as you have big money in politics, its hard to make change. But its hard to get the money out of politics without changing the leadership.

Still, she is optimistic about the long term.

She compared the state constitutional amendment effort to bills in other states that seek to make abortion illegal, in case Roe v. Wade is overturned.

But in this case, should Citizens United be overturned, we dont want to be in the position to say, Well, well allow it in our state. This would protect us.

Were passing something thats looking at a what-if, Subeck added. But we also believe that Citizens United Will be overturned. People are getting more and more fed up about government being controlled by financial interests.

Evidence of that discontent includes the 15 referenda across Wisconsin on the April 7 ballot supporting overturning Citizens United.

One hundred years ago, Fighting Bob La Follette said the cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy, Matt Rothschild concluded. We need more democracy in this country. We need more democracy in Wisconsin. We need more democracy right now. Lets take the cure.

And with that, the reporters in attendance filed out to cover the low-key discussion of noncontroversial issues in the Assembly and Senate.

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Citizens United and the Big Picture - Wisconsin Examiner

Michelle Carter, convicted in texting-suicide case, to be released – ABC News

January 22, 2020, 5:15 PM

4 min read

Michelle Carter, the woman who sent texts to her boyfriend urging him to kill himself when they were both teenagers, is scheduled to be released from prison early due to good behavior.

Carter, now 23, has been a "model inmate" at the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, since she arrived in February 2019, Jonathan Darling, public information officer for the Bristol County Sheriff's Office, told ABC News. Carter is expected to be released Thursday during jail business hours -- between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Inmates can earn "good time" -- up to 10 days a month -- by attending programs, having a job and avoiding disciplinary problems, Darling said. Carter would attend some vocational and educational programs and held a job serving meals in the cafeteria.

In addition, she was "polite" to jail staff and volunteers and got along well with fellow inmates, Darling said.

"We've had no problems with her at all," he added.

Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 after texts she sent to her then-boyfriend, Conrad Roy, before he died by suicide in 2014, were deemed "reckless" by a Massachusetts juvenile court judge.

Carter was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison with 15 months served and the rest suspended. She'll remain on probation for five years after she's released.

Her case was the first in which someone was convicted of manslaughter for using his or her words.

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal for Carter last week after her attorneys argued that a conviction based on her words alone was a violation of the First Amendment.

In September, Carter was denied parole by the Massachusetts Parole Board, as members stated they were "troubled that Ms. Carter not only encouraged Mr. Conrad to take his own life, she actively prevented others from intervening in his suicide."

An attorney for Carter did not immediately provide comment to ABC News regarding her release.

ABC News' Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

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Michelle Carter, convicted in texting-suicide case, to be released - ABC News

Facebooks Soleimani Ban Flies in Face of First Amendment – Common Dreams

Instagram, and its parent company Facebook, took down posts regarded as too sympathetic to Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated January 3 in a controversial US airstrike. The news website Coda (1/10/20) was credited with breaking the news, and Newsweek (1/10/20) also reported that:

Iranian journalists have reported the censorship of their Instagram accounts. Posts about Soleimani have disappeared from Instagram, which is currently the only operational international social media site within Iran.

According to the Facebook corporation, as quoted by CNN (1/10/20), removal of such posts is required by US sanctions; the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, of which Soleimani was a commander, was designated as a terrorist organization by the US government in April:

As part of its compliance with US law, the Facebook spokesperson said the company removes accounts run by or on behalf of sanctioned people and organizations.

One might rightly ask: What constitutes a post supportive of the late military commander? According to the CNN report, merely posting a photo of the general could get the Facebook authorities to take a post down.

The International Federation of Journalists condemned the censorship:

The measures have gone even further, and some accounts of Iranian newspapers and news agencies have now been removed from the social media platform. This poses an immediate threat to freedom of information in Iran, as Instagram is the only international social media platform currently still operating in the country.

The Washington Times (1/11/20) reported:

Ali Rabiei, a spokesperson for the Iranian government, complained from his Twitter account on Monday this week about the disappearance of social media discussions about Soleimani, accusing Instagram of acting undemocratic and unashamed.

Much of the coverage has centered on the fact that Instagram is one of the few social media networks not widely restricted in Iranthus, the blackout serves as a way of censoring information going into Iran. In fact, the US government news agency Voice of America (1/7/20) reported that the Iranian government was clamping down on social media posts too critical of Soleimani, and NBC News (8/21/19) reported on how Iranians used networks like Instagram to skirt government regulation. (The irony here is thick.)


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But this news has also gotten journalists and press advocates worried about what this means for free speech and the First Amendment in the United States. On the one hand, as a private company, Facebook is free to make its own rules about acceptable content. Yet if the network is removing content because it believes it is required to do so by law, that is government censorshipand forbidden by the Constitutions guarantee of freedom of the press.

Shayana Kadidal, a senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told FAIR that while it was possible for the US government to restrict media companies from coordinating with sanctioned entities and providing material support to the IRGC, the US government cannot restrict Americans from engaging in what he called independent advocacy.

Independent advocacy, as the law stands, cant be banned, he said. For [Instagram] to remove every single post would mean it was pulling posts that are protected.

The Washington Post (1/13/20) reported that free speech advocates were worried, with the director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation calling it legally wrong. Others concurred:

Eliza Campbell, associate director at the Cyber Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC, [said] that the existing laws had failed to keep up with online speech, calling it a field of law that hasnt been written quite yet.

The terrorist designation system is an important tool, but its also a blunt instrument, she said. I think were walking down a dangerous path when we afford these platformswhich are private entities, have no oversight, and are not elected bodiesto essentially dictate policy, which is whats happening right now.

Emerson T. Brooking, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Councils Digital Forensic Research Lab, [said] that Facebook and Instagram are taking a very aggressive position and it may not be sustainable. He said it could result in Facebook removing any speech of any Iranian mourning Soleimanis death and could represent a harsh new precedent.

Regardless of whether the government directed Facebook to take this action, the fact that a media company felt the need to do so is proof of a chilling effect on speech. Who, specifically, is to decide what is so unabashedly pro-Soleimani material that it violates US sanctions? Is an article that merely acknowledges that many Iranians mourned Soleimani and denounced his killing a violation? Is an anti-war editorial that doesnt sufficiently assert Soleimani was no angel constitute such a crime? Could satirical material that facetiously supported the Tehran regime get censored? (The last item isnt so hypothetical: A Babson College professor was fired for jokingly encouraging Iran to follow Trumps lead by targeting US cultural sites.)

All of these questions, and all this ambiguity, should be enough evidence that this kind of censorship would be capricious and unfairly applied, and thus inappropriate in the face of free speech protections.

Free press advocates in the United States should think seriously in the coming days about how to respond. If sanctions can be invoked by a social media network to take down certain content, what is next? In order not to find out, well need a concerted pushback to Facebooks censorship from journalists and civil libertarians.

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Facebooks Soleimani Ban Flies in Face of First Amendment - Common Dreams

The First Amendment and Privacy: Free Speech Rules (Episode 9) – Reason

When can the law stop you from saying things about me in order to protect my privacy? Pretty rarely, it turns out.

Let's just make clear what kind of "privacy" we're talking about. The Supreme Court has sometimes discussed a "right to privacy," but that's generally a right to personal autonomyfor instance, the right to buy and use contraceptives. We're not talking about that right here.

We also often have a right to physical privacy in the sense of freedom from trespass or surveillance. The Fourth Amendment, for example, protects us against "unreasonable searches and seizures" by the government. The law of trespass protects us against physical intrusions by our neighbors.

The tort of "intrusion upon seclusion" protects us from other kinds of surveillance, such as people photographing into our bedrooms using high-powered magnifying lenses or people telephoning us repeatedly in the middle of the night. We're not talking about that here, either.

Rather, we're talking about "informational privacy"restrictions on communicating information about me when I think that information is highly private.

Here are the five rules of free speech and privacy:

Rule 1: We usually have a right to speak about other people, not just about ideas. We can express opinions about them, even if those opinions are insulting. We can say true things about them, even when they'd rather keep that information private.

Newspapers and TV programs are chock full of such speech about people, many of whom would rather not be spoken about. The same is true of biographies. Even autobiographies usually reveal information not just about the writer, but about his family, friends, lovers, business associates, and more.

Rule 2: We have a nearly absolute right to reproduce information drawn from government records. Newspapers can quote arrest reports, or documents from court cases, even when they describe the private details of the defendant's lifeor of a victim's life. For instance, in 1989 the Supreme Court struck down a statute that forbade the media from publishing the names of sex offense victims. Such a statute, the Court held, wrongly limited the right to publish information drawn from government records, such as arrest reports.

And this right doesn't vanish with time. There can be no European-style "right to be forgotten" under American law, at least when it comes to material taken from government records.

Rule 3: Our free speech rights extend to speech about private figures, and not just about government officials or famous people. Indeed, newspaper stories often disclose information about ordinary people who have never sought publicity.

Rule 4: Lower courts have allowed some civil lawsuits for so-called "public disclosure of private facts." The Supreme Court has never decided whether this tort is constitutionally valid. But even if the tort can be constitutional, courts agree that it's sharply limited.

First, it applies only to revelations of highly embarrassing or personal information, such as sexual history or medical conditions.

Second, it's limited to statements that aren't "newsworthy." That's a vague line, but courts have read the newsworthiness defense quite broadly: So long as the facts are linked to newsworthy events, such as a crime, people are free to repeat them.

Third, as Rule 2 notes, material borrowed from government recordsagain, such as trial transcripts or arrest reportscan pretty much always be published.

Rule 5: The strongest protection for privacy is generally contract. If a business, for instance, promises not to disclose information about its customers, that promise can be enforced in court. Same if, for instance, someone who is working for a celebrity signs a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of employment.

Such contracts aren't always enforceable; for instance, if a court orders you to disclose information about a customer, you can't just insist that you had promised the customer to keep it secret. Likewise, a federal statute bars businesses from requiring consumers to sign "non-disparagement" clauses, in which the consumer promises not to publish critical reviews of the business.

But if a contract not to speak is otherwise enforceable, the First Amendment doesn't prevent its enforcement. And that extends to promises of privacy as well as to other nondisclosure agreements.

Written by Eugene Volokh, who is a First Amendment law professor at UCLA.Produced and edited by Austin Bragg, who is not.Additional graphics by Joshua Swain

This is the ninth episode of Free Speech Rules, a video series on free speech and the law. Volokh is the co-founder of The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog hosted at Reason.com.

This is not legal advice.If this were legal advice, it would be followed by a bill.Please use responsibly.

Music: "Lobby Time," by Kevin MacLeod (Incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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The First Amendment and Privacy: Free Speech Rules (Episode 9) - Reason

Op-Ed: Religious liberty in our schools must be protected – The Intelligencer

Schools must be held accountable to the Constitution. The Trump administrations new guidelines will ensure that they are, says Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Theres a reason why the First Amendment comes first. Our country was founded upon the first freedoms it protects. The freedom to express ourselves through speech, through the press, through assembly, through petition and through faith defines what it means to be American.

And no American forfeits these freedoms including the right to pray to anyone or in any place, especially in public schools. The notion of separation of church and state is not an invitation for government to separate people from their faith.

Yet, too many students and too many teachers are separated from their faith while they are in school:

Utah fourth-grader William McLeod was told by his teacher that wearing ashes in the form of a cross on his forehead, a sign of public penance at the beginning of Lent, was inappropriate. The teacher gave William a sanitizing cloth to wipe his forehead clean.

Kentucky high school sophomore Emily Chaney established a prayer locker in her school so that fellow students could submit prayer requests anonymously. A radical secularist group complained, and the local superintendent forced Emily to close her prayer locker.

These incidents indicate that too many champion the part of the First Amendment that bars an establishment of religion but choose to ignore the clear admonition against prohibiting the free exercise of religion. In fact, the First Amendment doesnt exist to protect us from religion. It exists to protect religion from government.

This president and this administration are committed to ensuring that all people of faith are free to exercise it. And we know that exercise means more than simply worship. Much more.

Thanks to President Donald Trumps leadership, we are adhering to the Constitution, which protects the peoples right to pray in their houses of worship, in their homes and everywhere else including in public schools. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was amended in 2002 to ensure that taxpayer-supported schools are following the law when it comes to constitutionally protected prayer in public schools. Under the law, the Department of Education is to issue guidance every two years for states and local communities concerning every students and every teachers right to pray in public schools.

This guidance had been issued only once. We took action and updated the guidance to reflect the law with respect to religious expression in public schools.

Our new guidance explains that the law requires states to report which of their schools failed to certify that they do not have any policy that denies anyone the right to pray. Students may, for instance, read the Bible during homeroom. They may give thanks to God before lunch or a snack. They can pray a decade or two of the rosary at recess. They can be excused from class to fulfill prayer obligations, such as during Ramadan. Students may organize faith-based clubs as they see fit. Students may invite a local rabbi to preach at an assembly. Teachers can pray in the lounge during a break. And students most certainly may express their faith in homework or other assignments free from discrimination based on religion.

Our updated guidance now makes clear that the law requires states to have a clear process for students, parents and teachers to report violations of their right to pray. It also notes that the law requires states to notify the department of any complaints against schools alleging violations of the right to pray.

This is but one way we are protecting the free exercise of religion in education. In light of the Trinity Lutheran Supreme Court decision, we are not enforcing unconstitutional prohibitions on school districts contracting with tutors, counselors or other similar secular services simply because of their religious affiliation. We successfully negotiated a consensus position with diverse stakeholders on protecting and respecting religious missions of higher education institutions.

We took down the previous administrations list, which publicly shamed faith-based schools for requesting assurance of an exemption from Title IX, a 1972 law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in education. And we are especially eager for the Supreme Court to put an end to the last acceptable prejudice made manifest in bigoted Blaine Amendments to 37 state constitutions that deny students the freedom to pursue faith-based education.

In our fast-paced, noisy world, it is healthy to develop an interior life. To be still, to reflect, to review, to contemplate to pray. Ones faith is personal, but it doesnt have to be hidden under a bushel basket. Americans have fought and died for the right to live their faith in all aspects of life.

This administration is and always will be committed to ensuring that all believers can live and practice their faith without fear.

Betsy DeVos is the Trump administrations Secretary of Education. This piece appeared in USA Today. Follow DeVos on Twitter at @BetsyDeVosED

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Op-Ed: Religious liberty in our schools must be protected - The Intelligencer

Op-ed: Did the University forget about the first amendment? – The Michigan Daily

Legislators at every level have adopted an operational ethos of ignore all relevant laws and sign it." This is a deeply concerning trend, and one that will result in dystopian realizations as politics continue moving toward the extremes. However, my fragile hope for the future remains intact thanks to the courts consistent rejection of this ethos. The University of Michigan is only the latest subject of both this trend and justices ruling in a case concerning our most potent liberty: speech.

On May 2, 2018, the Universitywas sued by Speech First, an organization dedicated to upholding the First Amendment on college campuses. The subject of the legal dispute was the Universitys Bias Response Team (BRT), which, according to Speech First, stifled freedom of speech and was therefore unconstitutional. In September 2019, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the BRT acts by way of implicit threat of punishment and intimidation to quell speech," and the Universityagreed to disband the BRT. This case is hugely symbolic, more so than it may appear.

The most basic freedom belonging to each person is life, defined by their freedom of conscience. Both life and free conscience are impossible to breach without direct action perpetrated by one unto another. Freedom of speech, therefore, is the concretization of our freedom of conscience. And fundamentally, this is why Speech First v. Schlissel is so symbolic: The courts defended our most basic right.

No student at the University should ever feel discriminated against. Yet, while the BRT held this same belief as its cornerstone, the metric used to determine if an offense had occurred the Universitys anti-harassment policy did not offer any objective definitions as to what constituted a violation. And here lies the unconstitutionality, as described by the Department of Justice: The University imposes a system of arbitrary censorship of, and punishment for, constitutionally protected speech.

This broader conflict is not unique to the University. Colleges across the country face similar challenges in trying to secure welcoming campus environments without infringing upon students First Amendment rights. In this, Im sympathetic with the universities. Were riding a 50-year wave of legal victories for equality in a number of areas; so, in keeping with the trend, lets try to fix campus speech, right? Sure, but not like this.

Todays political climate is one of friction and frustration on both sides. Any comment not perfectly impartial sets off a firestorm, regardless of the reasoning behind the statement, the context or the speaker. We are on a hair trigger. So, how, in this era so characterized by scrutinizing the most minute actions and verbiage, did the University fly right by the First Amendment?

Sadly, today, the legitimacy of actions taken in pursuit of something noble are largely ignored. Those in charge act impulsively without considering their actions. The University wanted to create a safer campus climate, so it created an agency capable of implicitly punishing students who voiced opinions that offended others. To me, this sounds like a paragon of this trend, a laudable end to be achieved by censorship. And the courts said no.

At last, herein lies my optimism for the fate of America: the judiciary. Currently, it seems the shared methodology to enact change, among both parties, is to act now and consider legality later. And yet, the courts have stood tall. The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of California for violating Article 1, Section 10; a federal judge blocked Alabamas abortion ban; and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Universitys Bias Response Team. This case was altogether important and worrying, but I find its conclusion reassuring for the future. The courts remain the protectors of our fundamental rights amidst brazen violations, and it looks like they might just continue holding the torch even if legislators at every level keep trying to blow it out.

David Lisbonne is a junior in the College of Engineering and can be reached at lisbonne@umich.edu.

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Op-ed: Did the University forget about the first amendment? - The Michigan Daily

Move to handcuff news outlets is unconstitutional | Opinion – Eagle-Tribune

The police blotter wasnt a good place to see your name in the newspaper even in the days before it ended up on the internet. Now, in this modern era, its digital twin is especially troubling for those among us who wish they could wipe away traces of their arrests. Online news is a tricky thing. It lingers and is readily searched by Google.

It was only a matter of time before someone like New Hampshire state Rep. Jack Flanagan came along to try to make all of those old arrests disappear, or at least be stuck with asterisks. Flanagan has a bill in Concord that would force news organizations to update online police logs and news stories once notified of someones acquittal, or in cases where charges are dropped or a defendant is found not guilty. The bill would place the burden a news organization to update, retract or correct an online story. Otherwise it could be held liable for damages.

Flanagans bill, which was up for consideration by a legislative committee this past week, is as impractical as it is unconstitutional. It should be dropped in the dustbin.

The argument that puts it there is clear-cut. The protection of news organizations is baked into the First Amendment. Virginian James Madison crated the first revisions to our Constitution amid concerns the document placed too much power in the hands of government. He began by protecting five individual and collective freedoms freedom to practice ones religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of petition.

Specifically the First Amendment says Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of the press. That prohibition extends broadly across government to include state legislatures.

Flanagans bill would do precisely what the New Hampshire Legislature is prevented from doing. That alone should be reason to move on.

But lets give him benefit of the doubt for a moment. The lawmaker has said he was contacted by constituents found not guilty of crimes who were frustrated when media refused to update online reports of their arrests, though he has not identified those constituents.

This inspired House Bill 1157, which Flanagan says does not protect the guilty. The bigger thing here, what I really want to do, is get the full story, he tells reporter Madeline Hughes.

As Flanagan notes, some media including this news organization routinely update stories and police blotters to indicate the outcome of charges once contacted by the person in question and given the proper documents. The trouble is Flanagans yearning to force this practice into law. Doing so would remove judgement and discretion from editors and publishers, replacing it with the government's. Thats a chilling prospect for anyone who respects the role of a free, independent press in our democracy.

On a practical level, what if there were a compelling reason not to post that update, perhaps because it would be misleading or tell only part of a story? What if the original report was copied in another online source not controlled by the originating news outlet? What about online reports that do not originate with news organizations but are made on social media by individuals? Could they be held liable as well? The bill invites a long list of uncertainties.

It also threatens the reporting that news organizations do on police. Who gets arrested and charged with a crime is essential information, not only because of the community's interest In knowing whos in trouble but also as a check on the power of police and prosecutors. And it's safe to say that most, if not all, who see those reports have some basic understanding of the criminal justice system. U.S. Appellate Court Justice Richard Wesley wrote in a 2014 decision, Reasonable readers understand that some people who are arrested are guilty and that others are not. Reasonable readers also know that in some cases individuals who are arrested will eventually have charges against them dropped."

Wesley was ruling in a Connecticut case involving news organizations that did not delete items about a womans arrest once the charge was dropped. News organizations had no obligation to do so, he found, noting that the information was accurate at the time it appeared. His decision was quoted by the New England First Amendment Coalition in a letter to lawmakers arguing against Flanagans bill.

We are not unsympathetic with those who wish to move on with their lives once theyve been arrested. But even the act of sealing ones records in court, when that's an option, cannot erase the history of what, in fact, happened.

Placing a burden on news outlets to fix those circumstances is both impossible and unconstitutional.

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Move to handcuff news outlets is unconstitutional | Opinion - Eagle-Tribune

Trump Takes Steps to Protect the Right to Pray in Schools – CNSNews.com

(Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) President Donald Trump marked National Religious Freedom Day on Thursday by announcing steps his administration is taking to protect the First Amendment right to pray in schools.

This afternoon, we're proudly announcing historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools. So you have the right to pray, and thats a very important and powerful right. There's nothing more important than that, I would say, Trump said.

He was joined in the Oval Office by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen as well as students and prayer advocates from across the country.Trump said that government must never stand between the people and God.

Yet, in public schools around the country, authorities are stopping students and teachers from praying, sharing their faith, or following their religious beliefs. It is totally unacceptable. You see it on the football field. You see it so many times where they're stopped from praying, and we are doing something to stop that, he said.

Tragically, there is a growing totalitarian impulse on the far-left that seeks to punish, restrict, and even prohibit religious expression. Something that, if you go back 10 years or 15 years or 20 years, it was un-thought of that a thing like that could even happen -- that anybody would even think of something like that happening, the president said.That is why, today, my administration is issuing strong new guidance to protect religious liberty in our public schools. The right of students and teachers to freely exercise their faith will always be protected, including the right to pray, Trump said.

Nine federal agencies are also proposing new rules to roll back discriminatory regulations. So we have rules to roll back discriminatory regulations on religious service organizations, and earlier this afternoon, my White House released a new memo to make sure federal funding is never used to violate the First Amendment -- which is a very big deal, the president said.

Hannah Allen, a high school freshman from Texas who attended the event, explained how she was told by her school that she and her classmates had to hide to pray.

So, me and a group of students from our school wanted to pray for our former classmate's brother who had got hurt in an accident. After the prayer, our principal told us, Dont do that again. So the next day, parents had called and complained. He told us that we could pray, but he said we had to hide in the gym or behind a curtain, or somewhere away from everyone else, she said.And I know that if this can happen in a small town in Texas, it can happen anywhere across America, and thats not right. No one should feel ashamed of their faith, especially in school or anywhere, Allen said.

She explained that the students sought help from the First Liberty Institute, a legal group dedicated to helping protect religious liberty.

So we got with First Liberty. They've been amazing. They supported us the whole way, and they sent the school a letter, and the school complied with the letter, and now the students are allowed to pray in school, Allen said.

Also on hand was Marilyn Rhames, founder and president of Teachers Who Pray. She explained why she founded the group:

I founded Teachers Who Pray because I, as a teacher, believe in the beauty of every child and the unlimited potential that resides within. However, the students that I was getting weren't set up for success, because they were so significantly behind grade level, and I taught in Chicago Public Schools for 14 years.

And during that time, we were losing students every year to gun violence, and one year, it was like 30, 32 students getting killed, and I was overwhelmed with the heaviness of the work, so I thought about quitting, and I decided not to. I was going to fight, and I was going to pray and uplift my spirit so that I can do the job that I knew God had called me to do.So I began praying with other teachers in the building who were like-minded, and we really supported each other, built community, built more hope, built more joy in the work despite it being so difficult, and we grew. Like, right now, there's over 150 chapters of Teachers Who Pray because teachers need that spiritual support and guidance.And today, I believe it's super important, because there is a myth out there that what Teachers Who Pray does and other organizations do for teachers'spiritual wealth is not legal, and it absolutely is. And I'm here to tell teachers that we need to pray for your faith. We need to pray. We need to buckle and just do what we have to do for our kids, because they need us, and they're depending on us. And if we're not strong, we can't make them strong. So thats why I'm here.

Trump pledged that his administration will not to let anyone push God from the public square. He said they will uphold religious liberty for all.

DeVos thanked Trump for his leadership, courage and friendship to people of faith, especially our nation's children.

Too many misinterpret a separation of church and state as an invitation for government to separate people from their faith, the education secretary said. In reality, our Constitution doesn't exist to protect us from religion. It exists to protect religion from government. The First Amendment affirms our free exercise of religion, and we dont forfeit that first freedom to anyone or in any place, especially in public schools.

After all, it's been noted that as long as there are final exams in schools, there will be always be prayer in schools, DeVos joked.

Thanks to your leadership, Mr. President, today we remind schools of the law with respect to religious expression -- something that hasnt been done in more than 15 years - and where there are violations, we now make clear that the law requires states to establish a clear process for students who want to pray in school and face opposition, she said.

The law also directs states to notify the administration about all complaints as well, DeVos said. The administration will ensure that all believers have the freedom to learn, to pursue our passions, to use our talents, and to live in accordance with the unique purpose that God has called us each to do.

If we embrace that freedom, our faith will be a light no darkness can overcome, the education secretary added.

The DOJ is committed to enforcing Americans' constitutional rights, including this one. So thats part of why Im very honored and privileged to be a part of todays announcement on the new guidance document about prayer in school, Rosen said.I think sometimes people dont appreciate that there are many, many Americans who feel called to pray during the day, and our First Amendment to our Constitution protects that, and sometimes I think theres a confusion about this issue as to whether its trying to force people to pray who dont want to, but thats not what this is about, the deputy attorney general said.

This is about protecting the rights of those who do to have the liberty to do that on school grounds, and that is protected by the First Amendment. So todays guidance reaffirms and clarifies and spells out for Americans what that freedom is with regards to prayer and religious expression, he said.

And I really think that the courage of people of faith, such as the folks we have here today, is really a reminder of how important our constitutional liberties are and of the great action that your administration is taking to ensure that they remain legally protected, Rosen concluded.

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Trump Takes Steps to Protect the Right to Pray in Schools - CNSNews.com

Breaking down the first amendment lawsuit against Florida State Representative Spencer Roach – Fox 4

CAPE CORAL, Fla. Tonight we are learning more about the lawsuit against State Representative Spencer Roach who is being sued by a civilian for blocking him on Facebook.

Anyone can sue anybody for anything. Question is, whether or not they will win, said Pamella Seay, FGCU criminal justice professor.

Randy Scott believes he will. Scott is suing State Representative Spencer Roach for blocking him on his public Facebook page. Saying he sees Roach not wanting to engage in public discourse.

That is representative Roach having a disdain for public discourse that is critical of him and his other people in Lee County who want to just have a free ride at public discourse, said Scott.

However, FGCU criminal justice professor Pamella Seay says this is not a public figure's account, but one for a candidate for public office so the limitations are different.

The key when you're looking at one of these social media accounts is whether or not it is a public forum, as he is using this particular account it is not a public forum. So yes he does have the right to block someone from that account, said Seay.

State Representative Spencer Roach emphasizes this is not an official government page.

That page is a campaign page, it is a promotional page, its an advertisement page that is paid for with funds in my campaign account. It is not an official government page, said Roach.

Roach says he welcomes criticism but claims Scott has personally threatened him and he will not tolerate it.

You know we welcome criticism and defense and especially policy debate on my campaign Facebook page ,but once you make a threat to kill me I think that kind of crosses the line and thats not something I am going to tolerate on that page."

Roach says the fight is not over.

I look forward to vigorously defending any lawsuit this or any others that attempts to harass me or my staff, said Roach.

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Breaking down the first amendment lawsuit against Florida State Representative Spencer Roach - Fox 4

Letter: It’s the First Amendment that needs sanctuary protection – Verde Independent


There is a movement underway to declare some cities or counties as Second Amendment sanctuaries. Using the very word sanctuary in connection with the Second Amendment is a cruel distortion of the meaning of the term.

The Second Amendment is not in need of a refuge or haven. Lets be clear: There is no political party, group, organization, cult, faction or any other synonym for a gathering of people that wants to take every gun from every individual in America. None.

This idea is born and raised in the mind of the NRA and the gun lobby to frighten gun owners into thinking otherwise. Can we have a reasonable discussion on the types of weapons suitable for our society? Yes.

Can we have a discussion on the appropriateness of certain individuals being allowed access to weapons in some circumstances? Yes.

These are not slippery slopes, as the gun lobbies would have you believe. These are legitimate and appropriate items for discussion. When reasonable gun laws are introduced the NRA counters with gun violence is a mental health issue.

Yet, when legislation is introduced to address that claim by suggesting that those closest to individuals who, at a time, due to mental or emotional problems, should be denied access to weapons until they can be evaluated as responsible again, the gun lobby and the NRA scream bloody murder.

The Second Amendment is low-hanging fruit for some politicians to grandstand. We have seen that at the last couple Board of Supervisors meetings.

If there ever was an amendment that needed sanctuary its the First Amendment, which has been under siege from the current occupant of the White House since before he took office.

Bob Burke

Beaver Creek

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Letter: It's the First Amendment that needs sanctuary protection - Verde Independent

Ask The Mayor: Bloomington’s Hamilton On First Amendment Rights, 4th Street Garage – Indiana Public Media

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Ask The Mayor: Bloomington's Hamilton On First Amendment Rights, 4th Street Garage - Indiana Public Media

Alabama jail preserving cell where Martin Luther King Jr. was held months before his assassination – WDAF FOX4 Kansas City

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. An Alabama county has passed a resolution to preserve a jail cell where civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is believed to have been held months before he was assassinated in 1968.

The cell, on the seventh floor of what is now the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, is the only one that was not removed when the building underwent renovations in 1996.

In order for Jefferson County to truly move forward, we must first recognize our past mistakes, take corrective action, and move forward with a sincere desire to embrace people from all walks of life, said Jefferson County Commission President Pro Tem Lashunda Scales in a press release.

The commission unanimously approved the resolution Thursday to memorialize the cell the last existing one at the old Jefferson County Jail, Scales told CNN.

King spent three days in the cell in late October and early November 1967. His arrest was triggered by a civil rights protest that he and several others had organized in Birmingham more than four years earlier.

The city of Birmingham had obtained an injunction from the state forbidding anti-segregation protests, and Kings group was denied a parade permit. Yet when they proceeded to march anyway in April 1963, King was arrested and spent eight days behind bars, where he wrote his renowned Letter from Birmingham Jail.

After being released from jail King and several colleagues were convicted of contempt of court. Their appeal of the conviction failed when the US Supreme Court upheld the arrests, meaning that King, along with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Sr. and several others, were immediately arrested after getting off an airplane in Birmingham on October 30, 1967.

The three were charged with a failure to obtain a Birmingham parade permit and were taken to a jail in Bessemer. One day later, the civil rights leader and his companions were transferred to the Jefferson County Jail, where they spent three days before being released.

Its believed to have been the last time King was jailed before his assassination five months later, according to Scales.

At the time he was arrested, Jefferson County was segregated, prejudiced and mean-spirited because of the evident racial and economic disparities that still linger to this very day, Scales told CNN. She said the county plans to turn the jail cell into a public exhibit for educational purposes.

The jail cell tells a story of this city being a civil rights city, said Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway, the countys first African-American sheriff.

It tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. being here, serving time fighting for us and our civil rights, Pettway told CNN.As the first black sheriff, its very important because I stand on shoulders of men just like him who fought for me to be able to have the right to be in this office.

Visitors to the jail cell will become better educated on how civil rights activists like King used the First Amendment to fight injustice and pave a path for positive change, Pettway said.

The passing of the resolution came about a week before the national commemoration of Kings birthday on January 20.


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Alabama jail preserving cell where Martin Luther King Jr. was held months before his assassination - WDAF FOX4 Kansas City

Can the Constitution stop the government from lying to the public? – Raw Story

When regular people lie, sometimes their lies are detected, sometimes theyre not. Legally speaking, sometimes theyre protected by the First Amendment and sometimes not, like when they commit fraud or perjury.

But what about when government officials lie?

I take up this question in my recent book, The Governments Speech and the Constitution. Its not that surprising that public servants lie they are human, after all. But when an agency or official backed by the power and resources of the government tells a lie, it sometimes causes harm that only the government can inflict.

My research found that lies by government officials can violate the Constitution in several different ways, especially when those lies deprive people of their rights.

Consider, for instance, police officers who falsely tell a suspect that they have a search warrant, or falsely say that the government will take the suspects child away if the suspect doesnt waive his or her constitutional rights to a lawyer or against self-incrimination. These lies violate constitutional protections provided in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

If the government jails, taxes or fines people because it disagrees with what they say, it violates the First Amendment. And under some circumstances, the government can silence dissent just as effectively through its lies that encourage employers and other third parties to punish the governments critics. During the 1950s and 1960s, for example, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission spread damaging falsehoods to the employers, friends and neighbors of citizens who spoke out against segregation. As a federal court found decades later, the agency harassed individuals who assisted organizations promoting desegregation or voter registration. In some instances, the commission would suggest job actions to employers, who would fire the targeted moderate or activist.

And some lawsuits have accused government officials of misrepresenting how dangerous a person was when putting them on a no-fly list. Some judges have expressed concern about whether the governments no-fly listing procedures are rigorous enough to justify restricting a persons freedom to travel.

But in other situations, it can be difficult to find a direct connection between the governments speech and the loss of an individual right. Think of government officials lies about their own misconduct, or their colleagues, to avoid political and legal accountability like the many lies about the Vietnam War by Lyndon Johnsons administration, as revealed by the Pentagon Papers.

Those sorts of lies are part of what Ive called the governments manufacture of doubt. These include the governments falsehoods that seek to distract the public from efforts to discover the truth. For instance, in response to growing concerns about his campaigns connections to Russia, President Donald Trump claimed that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped him during the campaign, even though the Department of Justice confirmed that no evidence supported that claim.

Decades earlier, in the 1950s, Sen. Joseph McCarthy sought both media attention and political gain through outrageous and often unfounded claims that contributed to a culture of fear in the country.

When public officials speak in these ways, they undermine public trust and frustrate the publics ability to hold the government accountable for its performance. But they dont necessarily violate any particular persons constitutional rights, making lawsuits challenging at best. In other words, just because the governments lies hurt us does not always mean that they violate the Constitution.

There are other important options for protecting the public from the governments lies. Whistleblowers can help uncover the governments falsehoods and other misconduct. Recall FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, Watergates Deep Throat source for The Washington Posts investigation, and Army Sgt. Joseph Darby, who revealed the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. And lawmakers can enact, and lawyers can help enforce, laws that protect whistleblowers who expose government lies.

Legislatures and agencies can exercise their oversight powers to hold other government officials accountable for their lies. For example, Senate hearings led Sen. McCarthys colleagues to formally condemn his conduct as contrary to senatorial traditions and ethics.

In addition, the press can seek documents and information to check the governments claims, and the public can protest and vote against those in power who lie. Public outrage over the governments lies about the war in Vietnam, for example, contributed to Lyndon Johnsons 1968 decision not to seek reelection. Similarly, the publics disapproval of government officials lies to cover up the Watergate scandal helped lead to Richard Nixons 1974 resignation.

It can be hard to prevent government officials from lying, and difficult to hold them accountable when they do. But the tools available for doing just that include not only the Constitution but also persistent pushback from other government officials, the press and the people themselves.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversations newsletter. ]

Helen Norton, Rothgerber Chair in Constitutional Law, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism and were investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnstons DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. Weve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. Weve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You wont find mainstream media bias here. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

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Can the Constitution stop the government from lying to the public? - Raw Story