VERIFY: Is the Port Neches-Groves ISD parent code of conduct new this year? – 12newsnow.com KBMT-KJAC

PORT NECHES, Texas A screenshot showing a code of conduct policy for Port Neches-Groves ISD parents is getting a lot of attention online.

12News Investigates looked into the origins of the policy.

Is the PNGISD parent code of conduct a new policy?

Our source is PNG ISD assistant superintendent Julie Gauthier.

She says the policy has been in place since 2018, and sent 12News a copy of the code of conduct dated 2018.

It's the same parent code of conduct parents are being asked to sign this year.

Do other school districts have a parent code of conduct?

Beaumont ISD's parent code of conduct is very similar, and can be found on the district's website. Hamshire Fannett also has a code of conduct.

While it's hard to say exactly how many schools have adopted a parent code of conduct, 12News can verify that several Southeast Texas schools do implement them.Will this infringe on parent's first amendment rights if they choose to post something negative about the school on social media?

Gauthier says the policy isn't meant to take away anyone's freedom. Instead, it's a proactive approach the school district has adopted to make sure the district and parents are working in the best interest of the child.

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VERIFY: Is the Port Neches-Groves ISD parent code of conduct new this year? - 12newsnow.com KBMT-KJAC

Ron Rivera will stand for anthem, but fully supports First Amendment rights – NBC Sports – NFL

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When the regular season begins (and hopefully it will), the head coach of The Washington Football Team will be standing for The National Anthem. But Ron Rivera will not question the decision of players to use the anthem as a platform for protest.

Well, the truth of the matter is again, lets go back to our Constitution, to our Bill of Rights, the amendment, Rivera recently told TheAthletic.com. Lets go back to the oath of office to serve and protect. Part of the Constitution is the First Amendment. Theres a lot of people out there that support the Second Amendment vehemently. Well, if you support the Second Amendment vehemently, why wouldnt you support the first one, which is freedom of expression, freedom of speech? And thats all that is. Thats an extension of one of our unalienable rights, one of our God-given rights, one of the things written into the Constitution. So, again, lets at least applaud that. Lets celebrate that as well.

Rivera said hell stand because his father served in the military, his brother was a first responder, and his wifes family has a history of military service.

My dad had brothers that served in World War II, Rivera added. So to me, standing at attention is what Im going to do. Thats how Im going to honor them. I might kneel during the coin toss because I do support Black Lives Matter. I do support the movement to help correct the policing. But at the same time, I think everybody has to celebrate what the Constitution of the United States entitles us to do as Americans. Thats the thing that everybodys got to understand. We got to get past all this other stuff and quit making this a political fight. Theres nothing political about the Constitution. Its clear cut the Supreme Court rules on it, follow it, and then were supposed to defend it.

As the pandemic continues to consume so much of footballs focus, issues regarding the anthem will become front and center if/when games are played. Given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, criticism and controversy over players not standing for the anthem should be regarded as the proverbial good problem to have, because it will mean that games are being played.

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Ron Rivera will stand for anthem, but fully supports First Amendment rights - NBC Sports - NFL

Letters to the editor for Aug. 4, 2020 | Opinion | thefacts.com – Brazosport Facts

Journalists want to have it both ways

In your reprint of the Seattle Times editorial, it seems the journalist wants to be on both sides of the First Amendment. If they print the truth, the mob will turn on them, so they want to withhold anything that exposes the mob. It is reported more than 500 assaults on media journalist were reported while they were covering a peaceful demonstration of First Amendment rights. The police want unpublished material to identify illegal acts and perpetrators. The journalist think this is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

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Letters to the editor for Aug. 4, 2020 | Opinion | thefacts.com - Brazosport Facts

Perspective: The Power Of The First Amendment | WNIJ and WNIU – WNIJ and WNIU

Wester Wuori's "Perspective" (July 24, 2020).

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.

That is the First Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified on December 15, 1791. I part company with many of my fellow liberals when it comes to freedom of speech. In the past 20 years, in my view, its been the far left that has slowly chipped away at First Amendment rights and a free exchange of ideas, especially those with whom we may not agree.

College and university speech police routinely bow to student pressure to bar speakers from campus because of their views or past writings. Campuses have created safe spaces where opinions and words are banned so as not to damage young minds. Sadly, now some in higher education are considering speech policies that could expel students for voicing a racist opinion.

The First Amendment is not absoluteno one should yell fire in a crowded theater, of course. However, this most important of our Bill of Rights does allow me to learn from and challenge others on their opinions and beliefs, no matter how vile or loathsome society may find their comments or writings or speeches.

How do we combat hateful or incendiary speech? With more speech. With better speech. With more effective arguments that make their case not because of the volume at which they are delivered but by the power of their meaning.

When it comes to racism, I would argue that silencing peoples views only drives them underground. And, its there, out of sight, where those beliefs and practices can and will do the most damage.

Im Wester Wuori and thats my Perspective.

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Perspective: The Power Of The First Amendment | WNIJ and WNIU - WNIJ and WNIU

Trump Still Blocking Critics On Twitter, Watchdog Says In New Lawsuit 08/03/2020 – MediaPost Communications

President Trump continues to block critics on socialmedia, despite judicial rulings that doing so violates the First Amendment, a watchdog alleged in a new lawsuit filed Friday.

This case is made necessary because defendants continue tounconstitutionally block ... individuals from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University alleges on behalf of five individual Twitterusers in a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan. Trump and social media director Daniel Scavino are named as defendants.

Two users -- including Georgetown professor of public policyDonald Moynihan -- say they were blocked during his presidency, but don't know what specific tweet provoked the block. The other three say they were blocked before Trump was inaugurated.

The Knight Institute has sent multiple letters and emails to defendants explaining that the continued blocking of these individuals from the @realDonaldTrump account violates the FirstAmendment, and asking defendants to unblock these individuals accounts, but defendants have expressly refused, the complaint alleges.

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In 2017, the Knight Institute initially suedthe White House on behalf of seven Twitter users who had been blocked after criticizing Trump. They argued that the White House violated free speech principles by blocking people based on theirpolitical views.

The following year, U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in New York sided against the White House and issued a declaratory judgment that the blocks wereunconstitutional.

The U.S. Department of Justice appealed to the 2nd Circuit, arguing that Trump acts in a personal capacity, as opposed to an official one, when he blocks peopleon Twitter.

A three-judge panel of that court upheld Buchwald's decision, ruling that evidence of the account's official nature was overwhelming.

The Justice Departmentthen urged the 2nd Circuit to order a new hearing in front of all or most of the circuit's judges. The appellate court rejected that request in March, with two judges dissenting.

The WhiteHouse hasn't yet said whether it will seek review by the Supreme Court.

The Knight Center says that the administration unblocked the original plaintiffs in 2018, as well as others who had beenblocked over critical comments.

But the organization says the administration has refused to unblock people who fall into two categories -- those who can't specify the tweet that led to theblock, and those who were blocked before Trump took office.

The Knight Institute is seeking a declaratory judgment that the continued blocks violate the First Amendment, and an injunctionrequiring the White House to unblock all accounts unless it can justify the blocking on an individualized basis.

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Trump Still Blocking Critics On Twitter, Watchdog Says In New Lawsuit 08/03/2020 - MediaPost Communications

Religious Entities Flex Their Muscles Through the Roberts Court, Playing Both Sides of the Discrimination Coin – Justia Verdict

Religious litigants were successful this Supreme Court Term wielding their religious identity as both a shield and a sword. The Roberts Court delivered just what they ordered: ever more expansive rights to government funding, based on their right not to be discriminated against, and mounting immunity from the employment discrimination laws. Thanks to President Trump, the Court now has a conservative, religious majoritywhich is composed of four Catholic men (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh) and Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is apparently Episcopalian. They were a well-oiled machine delivering for religious believers with nary a concern about who might be harmed.

As religious litigants succeed in expanding their opportunities for government-sourced income streams, and eschew the legal obligations on everyone else, they also persist in their expectations of no public accountability about their finances. Unlike other nonprofits, they maintain their tax-exempt status without having to truthfully disclose their actual finances, donors, or lobbying activity. The result is a greater capacity to pursue government funds under cover, e.g., the PPP loans through which the Catholic dioceses and parishes raked in $1.4 billion, and an ever-increasing power to impose their beliefs on their employees, whether co-believers or not.

There was a time when the separation of church and state, that concept devised by Baptist preacher John Leland and embodied in James Madisons First Amendments Establishment Clause, meant that the government was foreclosed from moving tax proceeds into religious coffers. Madison, the drafter of the First Amendment, railed against taxpayer support of religious education in his 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. He said not even three pence in taxes should flow from a citizen to support religious education. Why? Because government financial support of religion is bad for religion and bad for government; it leads to a union of power that the framing generation understood leads to tyranny.

One of the projects of religious lobbyists and some law professors since the 1990s has been to open the sluice to increased government funding of religious education and activities. They shrewdly adopted the vernacular of discrimination, arguing that if any other entity was receiving taxpayer funds, well, then, they should, too. Their first major success was in 1995 in Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, where the Court ruled 5-4 that the University of Virginia was required to financially support a religious club engaged in proselytization if it also supported secular clubs. The decision planted the seed they hoped to cultivate that religious entities must be treated equally with all others that receive government dollars. They reasoned that if they are not included as beneficiaries of public funds, they are victims of discrimination. Dont worry about James Madisons concern about corruption and an unholy union of power. Instead, accept that religious entities and secular entities are the same when it comes to funding.

In 2017, the Roberts Court gave that seed a heavy watering with the Chief Justices majority opinion in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, holding that a church must receive recycled rubber playground resurfacing if other playgrounds did as well. This Term, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, Roberts took the Court one step farther, holding that the government cannot have a scholarship fund that includes private schools but not religious private schools. This was a victory for private religious schools coffers.

While they have posed as the victims of unfair discrimination in government funds, religious entities have also pushed an agenda of discrimination against their employees. In other words, they have seen no need to draw a connection between public values like nondiscrimination and the fact they are demanding taxpayer proceeds and tax-free status.

In the 1980s, religious lobbyists with their supportive law professors took to the legislatures to demand what they are fond of calling autonomy. They frequently argue that they are so special that while they should be treated as equals in terms of finances, they should not have to obey the laws meant for everyone else. They may piously demand equal treatment when it comes to government dollars, but they are determined to be able to discriminate against their employees at will in as many ways as possible. Three cases this Term enhance their power to discriminate.

Their preferred mechanisms for avoiding the obligations of the law are the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and a doctrine called the ministerial exception.

This Term, the Roberts Court in an opinion by Justice Alito enlarged the ministerial exception in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel, to hold that lay teachers at Catholic schools are not protected by the federal laws against age discrimination or disability discrimination. Alito intoned how very religious their teaching activities were, without once making a nod to how devastating it can be to lose your job because of your age or cancer diagnosis. Employees of religious entities beware: regardless of what the faith believes, they can violate your civil rights on a whim (after they pay you a pittance compared to other private schools and public schools).

The less-noticed moment of a newly defined power to discriminate appeared in the Bostock v. Clayton County case where Justice Gorsuch wrote for the majority. The headline from this case was that sex in Title VII includes LGBTQ and so employers would not be permitted to discriminate against their gay or trans employees. This seemed like such a progressive opinion! Yet, read the opinion to the end where Gorsuch laid the foundation to permit anyone to discriminate against LGBTQ under Title VII if they are able to articulate a religious reason for it.

At the end of the majority opinion, Gorsuch went out of his way to point out that the employers in that case did not raise a religious defense to the claims, but if they had, there is an escape hatch: RFRA. Before you become comfortable thinking, well, that wont apply to major corporations, please remember Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. In that case, a for-profit lucrative arts and crafts chain successfully invoked RFRA to deny women employees contraceptive coverage that conflicted with the owners faith. That would otherwise be a violation of the womens rights against gender and religious discrimination under Title VII, but as Gorsuch declared, RFRA is a super statute. Thus, Bostock modified by RFRA opens the door to discrimination against LGBTQ employees by individuals, nonprofits, and for-profit organizations.

RFRAs capacity to undermine public health in Hobby Lobby was reinforced this Term in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, where the majority, in an opinion by Justice Thomas, held that the Trump administrations evisceration of the contraceptive mandate (requiring no-cost contraception for all women) through broad religious and moral exemptions was supported by RFRA. As with all of these decisions, the spotlight was trained on the religious actors while their victims essentially sat in the dark, off to the side, ignored by the justices who were busy constructing a separate world for fellow believers without the bothersome Lockean obligations of a shared society.

Essentially, the conservative members of the Court have built a functional and operational establishment. They have created entitlements to government support, while they have built shelter for religious entities and business owners from the principles of fairness and accountability that undergird Title VII.

Madison sagely described the effect of religious establishments on civil society: sometimes they erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority and at others, they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny. Either way, according to Madison, they have not been the guardians of the liberties of the people.

Amen to that.

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Religious Entities Flex Their Muscles Through the Roberts Court, Playing Both Sides of the Discrimination Coin - Justia Verdict

There are no exceptions to the First Amendment, even in a pandemic – Independent Women’s Forum

A few weeks ago, theTexas Supreme Courtmade headlines by warning state officials that there was not, in fact, a pandemic exception to the United States Constitution. This past week, however, the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to create one. In an orderthat surprised even theliberals atVox, the Supreme Court blessed a Nevada law that preferences casinos over churches. The decision has no basis in First Amendment law and establishes a worrisome precedent for government overreach in times of crisis.

Located in Dayton, Nevada, Calvary Chapel is a small, rural church that wishes to host worship services for about 90 congregants, which is 50% of its fire-code capacity. Calvary Chapels reopening plans are more than compliant with state and CDC requirements. A limited, 45-minute service (half the normal length), one-way entrance and exit footpaths, six-feet of separation between families, a prohibition on passing items, and sanitization between services are just some of the measures proposed by Calvary Chapel.

Yet Nevada forbade Calvary Chapel from opening its doors. In a breathtaking assertion of governmental power premised on COVID-19, Gov. Steve Sisolak (a Democrat) issued a directive that severely constrains church attendance. No church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship may admit more than 50 persons no matter the building capacity or safety measures employed.

The fact that these restrictions do not apply to casinos, gyms, bowling alleys, restaurants, or bars should have made Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolakan easy case. It isblackletter lawthat strict scrutiny applies to government restrictions on religious exercise that are not neutral and of general applicability. If the Free Exercise Clause means anything, it means government may not single out the religious for disfavored treatment. Yet, that is precisely what Nevada has done. While limiting church attendance to 50 people, Nevada allows the casino down the street to admitthousandsof people, up to 50% of their maximum capacity.

Further, casinos are not the only venues that are treated more favorably than churches. Other commercial interests, such as bars, gyms, and restaurants, may also operate at 50% capacity. In fact, tournament bowling alleys in Las Vegas seat hundreds of spectators, and like casinos, can admit up to 50% of capacity. State guidelines provide that groups of up to 50 people may sit together in bowling alley grandstands. Meanwhile, the synagogue down the street is limited to 50 total worshippers.

On Friday, in a one-sentence orderthat contains not a word of explanation, a sharply divided 5-4 Supreme Court denied Calvary Chapels application for an injunction restraining the state of Nevada from enforcing its 50-person limit on religious services.

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsucheach authored a dissentarguing that Nevadas reopening plan discriminated against religious services in violation of the First Amendment.

As Alito explained, a public health emergency does not give public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists. Rather, officials are required to craft policies that account for constitutional rights.

This principle is hardly new. In 1866, at the height of the Civil War, the Supreme Court heldthat the Constitution may not be modified in times of crisis. Rather, our founding charter applies at all times and under all circumstances. Indeed, the court could not think of any other doctrine involving more pernicious consequencesthan that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government.

If only the current Supreme Court would return to this view. As Gorsuch explained, the world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.

All is not lost, however. Although Calvary Chapel will not receive its injunction, the courts still have a chance to consider the case on the merits and to ensure that the First Amendments protections apply at all times and in all circumstances.

Erin Hawley is a senior legal fellow at Independent Womens Law Center and a former clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court of the United States.

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There are no exceptions to the First Amendment, even in a pandemic - Independent Women's Forum

Princeton professor pushes back on cancel culture on campuses: ‘First Amendment is for all of us’ – FOX 32 Chicago

The right to free speech in America needs to be protected, Princeton University jurisprudence professor Robert George stated Friday.

George's comments during an interview on "Fox News @ Night" came following a Michigan bed and breakfast's decision to remove their Norwegian flag after dozens wrongly accused the owners of flying a Confederate flag.

According to reporting from WLIX, when Greg and Kjersten Offbecker created the St. Johns inn -- named The Nordic Pineapple -- they installed the flag, hanging an American flag alongside it.

The pair then began to receive cruel emails and phone calls. Some were even convinced that the "B&B" was built by Confederate leaders when, in fact, union workers constructed the Civil War-era building for the daughter of the Saint Johns founder.

Kjersten Offbecker said the flag was hung as a way for her to represent her Scandinavian heritage. However, with the confusion, she took it down because she said it was not worth the frustration.

The Norwegian flag has the same colors as the Confederate flag, but the patterns and symbols are different. The Confederate flag is red with a blue X containing white stars.

"It's a combination of a very bad attitude and a great deal of ignorance," George remarked. "You would think that Americans would be able to tell what is and isn't a Confederate flag -- even if it's a flag that, in some ways, resembles a Confederate flag.

"But, look at how quickly people just turn to outrage and tried to shut these people down because they thought they had broken the rule against wrongthink..." he told host Shannon Bream. "So, the combination of malice and ignorance is really toxic."

George highlighted the importance of speaking up in defense of the free speech rights of those you strongly may disagree with.

"Temple University was under pressure to discipline [Professor] Marc Lamont Hill for some statements that I very strongly disagreed with. But I, nevertheless, threatened to myself lead a protest...in defense of the free speech rights of the very progressive Marc Lamont Hill," he explained. "Because he has every bit of [a right to] free speech as I have or as anybody else has.

"The First Amendment is for all of us," George pointed out.

"It's not the property of the left. It's not the property of the right. It's not the conservatives'; it's not the liberals' [property]. It's everybody's right..." he said.

"And so, we need to protect the free speech rights and stand up for the free speech rights of those we oppose," George urged.

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Princeton professor pushes back on cancel culture on campuses: 'First Amendment is for all of us' - FOX 32 Chicago

Assembly to look at limiting First Amendment rights of therapists and clients – Must Read Alaska

ANCHORAGE COULD BAN SOME FORMS OF THERAPY FOR GAY CLIENTS

On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly will take up an ordinance that would prohibit counselors and therapists from helping young clients who are struggling with unwanted homosexual thoughts, gender dysphoria, or other gender identity or sexual variations.

Offered by three gay members of the Anchorage Assembly, the ordinance would mandate that if a minor wants counseling for unwanted sexual urges or expressions, therapists would have to end the counseling session and show their client the door. Families could, of course, travel to Palmer or Wasilla for such counseling, but it would not be available in Anchorage.

Opponents of the measure say the ordinance would infringe on the First Amendment rights of both patients and therapists, and put a chill on therapists who believe a young person is experiencing a temporary identity problem and want to explore what may be going on in that young persons life.

The ordinance leans on the authority of a three-part story by the Anchorage Press that says persons who are homosexual are discriminated against. In the third part of the series, the Anchorage Press calls gender therapy Conversion, The real hell, focusing on two minors who had therapy forced on them by their parents.

The ordinance would not prevent pro-gay counseling and hormone therapies to assist a young person in presenting as the opposite sex or following romantic attractions with the same sex, but would prevent a counselor or therapist from any communication that would discourage that road for their patients.

In an Alaska Family Council workshop for pastors and others concerned that their religious freedoms or patient-therapist relationships are being infringed upon, Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council warned that sexuality among minors can change as children grow in or out of experimentation phases.

He said that the ban on counseling is a form of viewpoint discrimination by a governing body, and that is a constitutional infringement on many levels.

Going to counseling is deeply personal experience that involves viewpoints, perceptions, and emotions, and if therapists think they are going to be sued because they ask questions of their patients, it will make therapists suppress their own viewpoints.

Sprigg added that parents are in charge of the health care and development of their children, something that has been upheld numerous times at the U.S. Supreme Court, and that there are minors who do want to undergo counseling for homosexual urges.

He also faulted the ordinance because it refers to licensed counselors, but doesnt say who the licensing authority is. In some cases, churches sanction or license counseling services through ordination.

[The entire ordinance in its current form is at this link.]

The meeting starts at 5 pm, but the public is not allowed to attend, per an order by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. You can find the full agenda and watch the proceedings at this link.

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Assembly to look at limiting First Amendment rights of therapists and clients - Must Read Alaska

Federal Authorities’ Conduct Against Protesters and Reporters in Portland Gross Violations of the First Amendment – PEN America

PEN America says federal agents are not above the rule of law in repressing and attacking protesters and reporters

(New York, NY) Reports have emerged that federal authorities have required detained protesters in Portland to commit to not attending further protests as a condition for release, and that federal officers have shot at and maced reporters and legal observers covering protests. PEN Americas director of U.S. free expression programs Nora Benavidez released the following statement in response:

Forcing First Amendment-abiding protesters to sign away their right to demonstrate to be released. Law enforcement using live ammunition against reporters and legal observers. These are gross violations of the First Amendment. Federal agents are not above the rule of law, and certainly not above the Constitution. The actions unfolding in Portland are aimed not only at silencing dissent, but also silencing the reporters and journalists working to reveal whats happening on the ground. This has to stop. Freedom predicated on silence isnt freedom at all.

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Federal Authorities' Conduct Against Protesters and Reporters in Portland Gross Violations of the First Amendment - PEN America

People do not have the right to riot – New York Post

Protesters in Gotham and other cities around the nation are so used to getting their way, theyve been spoiled. Their illegal occupation of our streets and parks has become so routine that the protesting class throws tantrums when it faces consequences, however rarely that happens.

Last weeks arrest of Nikki Stone, wanted for alleged serial vandalism of police cameras, was a case in point. The 18-year-old homeless woman was marching in a peaceful, though non-permitted, march down Second Avenue when plainclothes NYPD officers arrested her and put her in an unmarked van.

Stonehad been filmed on multiple occasions painting over NYPD security cameras around City Hall Park during the last months occupation. Her alleged actions suggest a flagrant lawlessness and enmity against the public good.

Yet Stone became a cause celebre, with supporters claiming she had been disappeared, as if by a right-wing regime in Latin America circa 1982. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans. Cable host Chris Hayescalled it kidnapping.

The City Councils Progressive Caucus claimed that this arrest was a tactic meant to intimidate protesters and discourage civil disobedience. Lawmakers accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of failing to hold the NYPD accountable for the brutality unleashed on those exercising fundamental rights.

Back in the real world, plainclothes officers with unmarked cars arrest wanted suspects like Stoneevery day, because it is the most effective way to approach them without tipping them off and letting them escape. It is only kidnapping if one believes that law enforcement, operating with judicial warrants, has no authority to bring criminals to court.

Moreover, the progressive councilmembers radically confuse civil disobedience and First Amendment rights.

The First Amendment protects the right peaceably to assemble, but that doesnt mean you can block traffic any time you want to. Ask Chris Hayes if you can sit in his MSNBC office or studio for a week in the name of your favorite cause.

Civil disobedience means intentionally breaking the law to draw attention to the (alleged) unfairness of the law. But de Blasio has been so spinelessly indulgent of anti-cop protests, allowing wildcat marches to take place every day, all over the city, that the protesters have come to believe that they have the right to break the law. When confronted, they exhibit the outrage of a pampered toddler denied a toy at nap-time.

Similarly petulant, VOCAL-NY, a government-funded nonprofit, is stamping its feet because the city is no longer planning to pay for the construction of its new headquarters. VOCAL-NY was the prime mover behind the Defund the Police encampment, marches and protests that dominated downtown in the run-up to the city budget deal. The groups chief organizer, Jawanza James Williams, proudly declared: We will occupy. We will not leave here until the mayor listens to us!!!

VOCAL-NY receives about $500,000 from the city each year, mostly for drug-abuse-prevention and other health programs.Taxpayers didnt allocatemoney to the group so it could establish an illegal campsite, stage marches across the Brooklyn Bridge,harass and attack law enforcers, destroy public property or demand abolition of the police. Members of the group went to the homes of local politicians, and even the home of Speaker Corey Johnsons boyfriend, screaming at them.

When Johnson removed several million dollars in capital spending that had been earmarked for VOCAL-NY to build a new headquarters, the group shrieked that he was being spiteful and violating their constitutional rights: There can be no place in New York Citys politics for this kind of attack on our First Amendment rights. Yeah, cry more.

VOCAL-NY, like many other ostensible charities, is used to taking millions of dollars in taxpayer funding for explicitly political activity. Theyve gotten used to it because no one in charge says no.

Johnson insists that the money was removed as a fiscal measure and had nothing to do with the way that VOCAL-NY portrayed him as a cop-loving bootlicker during the budget process, embarrassing him ahead of a possible mayoral run, or that they threw paint at his boyfriends front door. But VOCAL-NY, and the protesters who want to dictate the time and manner of their arrests and the clothing of their arresting agents, need to relearn a key lesson of toddlerhood: Actions have consequences.

Seth Barron is associate editor of City Journal.

Twitter: @SethBarronNYC

Excerpt from:

People do not have the right to riot - New York Post

Opinion: Heres a monument all Americans can rally around: Lets celebrate the Bill of Rights – Pocono Record

Amid the turmoil over taking down Confederate monuments and others ranging from Christopher Columbus to Theodore Roosevelt, heres an idea that that almost everyone can get behind: How about erecting monuments that celebrate the Bill of Rights?

Yes, the Bill of Rights: 10 amendments to the Constitution, ratified in 1791, that spelled out the individual freedoms Americans have enjoyed ever since including the freedom to protest against things like monuments (thanks to the First Amendment.)

A campaign to place Bill of Rights monuments in state capitols in all 50 states is already underway, albeit moving slowly. Arizonas Bill of Rights monument was built in Phoenix in 2012, and plans for an OkIahoma monument in Oklahoma City are progressing. A smaller scale monument can be found in Montezuma, Iowa.

Its the brainchild of Chris Bliss, a comic by trade who has made the Bill of Rights his side project. Comics, after all, benefit greatly from the First Amendment. His campaign began nearly two decades ago, when there was controversy over monuments that celebrated the Ten Commandments, also often placed in state capitols.

Bliss envisioned erecting Bill of Rights monuments as a way to "comparison shop" with the Ten Commandments, he says whimsically. He also wants the monuments built near state capitols because "every kid goes to state capitols" on school field trips. He estimates that 40,000 students a year have visited the Arizona monument.

As he delved into the project, Bliss found that the Bill of Rights was something of a forgotten document, rarely taught in schools. People knew about a patients bill of rights or a bill of rights for airline passengers. But it was hard for people to grasp the abstract principles of the constitutional Bill of Rights, Bliss says, and therefore hard to turn those principles into marble or limestone.

Donations and support for Bliss Bill of Rights project have been sporadic over the years, with comedians like Lewis Black and the late Dick Gregory helping out. The Bill of Rights has "no preexisting constituency," Bliss says, unlike other organized groups that can lobby successfully for building monuments.

But in the aftermath of the recent protests nationwide that involve monuments and civil liberties, he hopes to jump-start his project and hasten the building of Bill of Rights monuments nationwide. "This is a very positive moment," Bliss says.

Amendments a safeguard for citizens

The relevance of the Bill of Rights to todays divisions is clear and deserves recognition. The Bill of Rights fosters freedom of expression, religion, due process, fair trials, protection against unreasonable government intrusion or excessive fines, among other important rights.

The 10 amendments are not without controversy. Interpreting the religion clauses of the First Amendment, the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment, and the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the Eighth Amendment has been a contentious task for centuries.

And there are parts of the Bill of Rights that are quirky, to say the least. The Third Amendment, for example, prohibits soldiers from being quartered in homes without the consent of owners. It was a big issue at the time of the founding, but not now.

Opportunity to celebrate liberty

Bliss says there is no better remedy for monument controversies than to commemorate the Bill of Rights, which he calls "the most powerful and successful assertion of individual rights and liberties ever written."

He adds, "The ideas were radical at the time, but now, people say, Of course. There is not an exclusionary phrase in the entire document. It is time for us to rediscover our own Bill of Rights and to elevate it to the position of public prominence it richly deserves."

Tony Mauro, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, covered the Supreme Court for USA TODAY from 1982 to 2000.

Continued here:

Opinion: Heres a monument all Americans can rally around: Lets celebrate the Bill of Rights - Pocono Record

The PACT Act Is Not The Solution To The Problem Of Harmful Online Content – EFF

The Senate Commerce Committees Tuesday hearing on the PACT Act and Section 230 was a refreshingly substantive bipartisan discussion about the thorny issues related to how online platforms moderate user content, and to what extent these companies should be held liable for harmful user content.

The hearing brought into focus several real and significant problems that Congress should continue to consider. It also showed that, whatever its good intentions, the PACT Act in its current form does not address those problems, much less deal with how to lessen the power of the handful of major online services we all rely on to connect with each other.

As we recently wrote, the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act, introduced last month by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and John Thune (R-SD), is a serious effort to tackle a serious problem: that a handful of large online platforms dominate users ability to speak online. The bill builds on good ideas, such as requiring greater transparency around platforms decisions to moderate their users contentsomething EFF has championed as a voluntary effort as part of the Santa Clara Principles.

However, we are ultimately opposed to the bill, because weakening Section 230 (47 U.S.C. 230) would lead to more illegitimate censorship of user content. The bill would also threaten small platforms and would-be competitors to the current dominant players, and the bill has First Amendment problems.

One important issue that came up during the hearing is to what extent online platforms should be required to take down user content that a court has determined is illegal. The PACT Act provides that platforms would lose Section 230 immunity for user content if the companies failed to remove material after receiving notice that a court has declared that material illegal. Its not unreasonable to question whether Section 230 should protect platforms for hosting content after a court has found the material to be illegal or unprotected by the First Amendment.

However, we remain concerned about whether any legislative proposal, including the PACT Act, can provide sufficient guardrails to prevent abuse and to ensure that user content is not unnecessarily censored. Courts often issue non-final judgments, opining on the legality of content in a motion to dismiss opinion, for example, before getting to the merits stage of a case. Some court decisions are default judgments because the defendant does not show up to defend herself for whatever reason, making any determination about the illegality of the content the defendant posted suspect because the question was not subject to a robust adversarial process. And even when there is a final order from a trial court, that decision is often appealed and sometimes reversed by a higher court.

Additionally, some lawsuits against user content are harassing suits that might be dismissed under anti-SLAPP laws, but not all states have them and there isnt one that consistently applies in federal court. Finally, some documents that appear to be final court judgments may be falsified, which would lead to the illegitimate censorship of user speech, if platforms dont spend considerable resources investigating each takedown request.

We were pleased to see that many of these concerns were discussed at the hearing, even if a consensus wasnt reached. Its refreshing to see elected leaders trying to balance competing interests, including how to protect Internet users who are victims of illegal activity while avoiding the creation of broad legal tools that can censor speech that others do not like. But as weve said previously, the PACT Act, as currently written, doesnt attempt to balance these or other concerns. Rather, by requiring the removal of any material that someone claims a court has declared illegal, it tips the balance toward broad censorship.

Another thorny but important issue is the question of competition among online platforms. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) expressed his preference for finding market solutions to the problems associated with the dominant platforms and how they moderate user content. EFF has urged the government to consider a more robust use of antitrust law in the Internet space. One thing is certain, though: weakening Section 230 protections will only entrench the major players, as small companies dont have the financial resources and personnel to shoulder increased liability for user content.

Unfortunately, the PACT Acts requirements that platforms put in place content moderation and response services will only further cement the dominance of services such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which already employ vast numbers of employees to moderate users content. Small competitors, on the other hand, lack the resources to comply with the PACT Act.

The hearing also touched upon understandably concerning content categories including political and other misinformation, hate speech, terrorism content, and child sexual abuse material (CSAM). However, by and large, these categories of content (except for CSAM) are protected by the First Amendment, meaning that the government cant mandate that such content be taken down.

To be clear, Congress can and should be talking about harmful online content and ways to address it, particularly when harassment and threats drive Internet users offline. But if the conversation focuses on Section 230, rather than grappling with the First Amendment issues at play, then it is missing the forest for the trees.

Moreover, any legislative effort aimed at removing harmful, but not illegal, content online has to recognize that platforms that host user-generated content have their own First Amendment rights to manage that content. The PACT Act intrudes on these services editorial discretion by requiring that they take certain steps in response to complaints about content.

Amidst a series of bad-faith attacks on Internet users speech and efforts to weaken Section 230 protections, it was refreshing to see Senators hold a substantive public discussion about what changes should be made to U.S. law governing Internet users online speech. We hope that it can serve as the beginning of a good-faith effort to grapple with real problems and to identify workable solutions that balance the many competing interests while ensuring that Internet users continue to enjoy the diverse forums for speech and community online.

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The PACT Act Is Not The Solution To The Problem Of Harmful Online Content - EFF

US Homeland Security Created Files on Journalists – Voice of America

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Friday that it has ordered agents to stop compiling and circulating intelligence reports on journalists.

The move came a day after The Washington Post reported that a DHS office had created three reports on two journalists covering demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, that were distributed to federal law enforcement agencies.

The reports, compiled by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, noted that the journalists had published leaked, unclassified documents about the deployment of federal agents to protests in Portland. The office is tasked with integrating DHS intelligence and distributing information to state and local authorities, as well as private partners.

In a statement, the Intelligence Office said that Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf had suspended the collection of information on journalists and ordered an investigation.

In no way does the acting secretary condone this practice, said DHS spokesperson Alexei Woltornist. The acting secretary is committed to ensuring that all DHS personnel uphold the principles of professionalism, impartiality and respect for civil rights and civil liberties, particularly as it relates to the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Details of the intelligence reports came amid unrest in Portlandand New York City, where plainclothes law enforcement officers have been spotted pulling protesters into unmarked vans. Portland police have livestreamed protests, which the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon alleges violates state law blocking police from collecting information on law-abiding citizens.

The Post reported that the intelligence reports contained images and descriptions of tweets by Mike Baker, a journalist at The New York Times and Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare, a blog that focuses on national security and policy. The reports included the number of likes and retweets the social media posts received.

Baker had co-reported on two internal DHS memos related to protests and unrest in Portland: a July 18 article detailing a memo that warned federal agents in the city do not specifically have training in riot control or mass demonstrations. and a Tuesday article on a memo in which the department acknowledged it lacked insight into the motives for the most recent attacks in Portland. The Times published both memos in full.

Wittes, also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tweeted images of internal Intelligence Office memos about leaks to Lawfare and Washington Post reporter Shane Harris, who later broke the news of the DHS reports. Wittes had reported that the DHS in mid-July authorized its personnel to monitor social media posts and collect information on people suspected of damaging public monuments.

In a Twitter thread about the intelligence reports, Wittes said that he was considering his legal options.

What is troubling about this story is that [the Office of Intelligence and Analysis] shared my tweets as intelligence reporting, wrote Wittes. I am not sure how my reporting of unclassified material constitutes any kind of homeland security threat that justifies the dissemination of intelligence reporting on a U.S. person, particularly not one exercising core First Amendment rights.

Analysts warned that the move appeared to threaten the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech in the U.S.

Even if individual reporters are not quivering in their boots, potentially, I think it does set a very troubling and potentially unconstitutional tone, said Nora Benavides, director of U.S. Free Expression Programs at Pen America, a nonprofit advocating for free expression and press freedom. Other reporters may think twice before engaging in these types of investigative and journalistic practices."

Benavides described the intelligence reports as a very serious threat to the First Amendment.

We should not be in a position, and journalists should not be in the position to question whether they should do their job at the risk of being added, potentially, to an intelligence report and being investigated as if they are committing some criminal act, Benavides told VOA. Journalism and a free press, those are not inherently criminal. Those are the types of tactics we see in undemocratic governments.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemned the intelligence gathering and called on the DHS to make public the findings of its investigation.

Federal law prohibits the creation of dossiers on journalists precisely because doing so can morph into investigations of journalists for news coverage that embarrasses the government, but that the public has a right to know, Gabe Rottman, director of the technology and press freedom project at the Reporters Committee, said in a statement.

The DHS reports on journalists are not an isolated incident, said Benavides. Multiple U.S. federal agencies collaborated last year to create a secret database of journalists, activists and attorneys covering a large migrant caravan.

NBC7 in San Diego, California, reported that the database listed 10 journalists and 48 others whom officials recommended be targeted for screening at the U.S.-Mexico border. Each entry contained a photo, data of birth, country of commencement, alleged tie to the caravan, and any alerts placed on a subjects passport.

Benavides said the reports on journalists appear to harken back to the types of chilling practices in which a federal agency is using its ability to investigate individuals, especially reporters, to try to chill them or prevent them from investigating.

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US Homeland Security Created Files on Journalists - Voice of America

President Trump blocking people on Twitter in violation of First Amendment, lawsuit claims – News Landed

President Trump is being sued for blocking people on Twitter. A free-speech organization, The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, followed up with an additional lawsuit on Friday arguing that President Donald Trumps actions of blocking people on Twitter are in violation of the First Amendment.

The lawsuit claims that the Presidents Twitter account should be treated as a public forum run by a government executive that shouldnt block free speech or expression of opinions. Donald Trumps legal team appealed the lawsuit, claiming that Trump can do as he wishes with his private account. However, the circuit court declined to review the decision in March, Forbes reports.

Since then, the plaintiffs have been unblocked from Trumps Twitter account. However, Trumps legal team also said that people who cant specify the tweet that provoked the president to block them and people who were blocked before the president took office were not intended to be blocked by the president.

Read Also: Are you a TikTok creator? TikTok is paying creators $2 billion for content

The lawsuit claims that the blocking unconstitutionally restricts individuals in participating in a public forum (Trumps Twitter account), access public statements, and petition the government for redress of grievances. Though the president has a separate Twitter account (@potus), the @readDonaldTrump is more frequently used by President Trump to announce political news and updates.

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Barrington D. Parker writes in an opinion, Since he took office, the President has consistently used the Account as an important tool of governance and executive outreach. He also adds that government officials cant block people from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.

What do you think? Should the presidents personal Twitter account be considered a public forum as it is widely used as a presidential account? Or should the lawsuit be dismissed? Let us know in the comments below!

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President Trump blocking people on Twitter in violation of First Amendment, lawsuit claims - News Landed

Fired Tiverton teacher gets her job back – Fall River Herald News

TIVERTON -- Amy Mullen has her job back with the Tiverton School Department.

U.S. District Court Chief Justice John J. McConnell Jr., ruling on a preliminary injunction Friday morning, said Mullens First Amendment rights were violated when she was terminated from her teaching job April 15 for speaking up about wanting to discuss distance learning as it pertained to her member teachers. Mullen is the head of the teachers union.

In granting the preliminary injunction filed by attorney Elizabeth Wiens, the judge ordered that Mullen be restored as a teacher until further notice. No doubt Ms. Mullen was retaliated against because of her First Amendment speech, McConnell said from the bench at the end of a virtual hearing.

Never once was her teaching called into question in the 25 years Mullen has worked for the district as a special education teacher, McConnell said, adding that she is considered an exemplary teacher.

Four attorneys were representing the School Department two were from the Interlocal Trust, the insurance carrier for the town. There was no ruling on their motion to dismiss the case Mullen brought against the district.

McConnell said he would take the motion to dismiss under advisement but at least part will be denied, he said. He said he was bothered by the individual suits against individual members of the School Committee who voted to terminate Mullen on the recommendation of Superintendent Peter Sanchioni.

Shell be back on the payroll as of today, School Committee attorney Stephen Robinson said Friday afternoon. We clearly will respect the courts orders, Robinson said, but added they respectfully disagree with the judge in his findings of fact and conclusions of law. We will explore our options.

Wiens wrote in the motion for preliminary injunction that Mullen should be reinstated immediately, noting in the 15-page motion that less than two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held that union speech is overwhelmingly of substantial public concern.

Wiens also wrote that there can be no doubt that speech relating to public education, including the creation of a Distance Learning Plan for students during a global pandemic is a matter of public concern. Mullens speech, Wiens wrote, was the sole factor in her termination.

In providing background, Wiens said Sanchioni repeatedly violated the collective bargaining agreement between the School Department and NEA-Tiverton, and because of numerous grievances and unfair labor practice complaints filed by the union, there was animus towards Mullen.

On March 12, 2020, Mullen attended a professional development committee meeting and communicated to the superintendent that online learning plans need to be negotiated with the union. She learned of a March 18 meeting for a distance learning plan and she arrived early to say the union should be part of the discussion.

Sanchioni raised his voice, told Mullen she was not invited to the meeting and told her he would write her up for insubordination if she did not leave, according to the motion.

She was placed on paid administrative leave on March 21 and told to cease and desist all communications with parents, teachers and administrators, or there would be further discipline, Wiens wrote. An April 6 letter to Mullen from the superintendent notified her of his intent to recommend to the School Committee that she be suspended without pay for her persistent disruption and insubordination. A Facebook post she made violated the gag order, it was later charged.

The School Committee voted unanimously April 14 to terminate Mullen, but voted again at a meeting in May to suspend without pay and terminate her at the end of the 2020-2021 school year. That vote was 4-0, with committee member Sally Black abstaining. Voting in favor was Chairman Jerome Larkin, Vice Chairwoman Diane Farnworth, Deborah Pallasch and Elaine Pavao.

Mullen filed suit soon after her termination, saying she was retaliated against by the district for speaking on behalf of her union members. The district said she was terminated for unprofessional and disruptive behavior.

In a June 17 email to Mullen, who wanted to be on the School Reopening Committee as a representative of the teachers union, she was advised by School Department legal counsel that she was not allowed on school property and not permitted to speak with school staff or administrators because of her suspension, Wiens wrote.

Much of the discussion at the hearing Friday morning centered on whether Mullen was speaking as an employee of the district, or as a private citizen at the distance learning meetings.

The speech took place in the workplace. It had to do with work-related issues, said attorney Marc DeSisto, representing the Interlocal Trust. When a union president speaks, that union official is speaking in a workplace official capacity and not as a private citizen, DeSisto argued, saying union and public employee are symbiotic.

He said the court was crossing out union and making it outside the employee realm. It goes back to whether she spoke as a private citizen and was protected by First Amendment speech, or spoke as an employee subject to disciplinary action.

Wiens told the judge that every court has found that speech as a union representative is not speech as an employee. We allege Amy Mullen was terminated because of her association with the union. The reason for the termination was her status as union president.

Wiens also argued the Tiverton School Department and the individual members of the School Committee who voted to terminate her and thus violated her First Amendment rights, should be held liable for damages for violating the Constitution.

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Fired Tiverton teacher gets her job back - Fall River Herald News

BILL CRAWFORD: What sort of hearts lead us today? – Meridian Star

There are the cold-hearted and the warm-hearted, the kind-hearted and the cruel-hearted, the soft-hearted and the hard-hearted among us. Do hearts matter when it comes to leadership?

Author Clifton Taulbert, who grew up in Glen Allan, Mississippi, thinks so. In 1997, he wrote a book entitled Eight Habits of the Heart gleaned from the people who made a difference in his early life. They told me I was good and that my life had a value.

The people in my small colored community had a thousand reasons not to build, but they ignored that reality and built their lives for my benefit, he wrote. When one builds people, a good community will emerge, one that will leave its imprint beyond our front rooms, far beyond the classroom, beyond the gym, beyond our offices, and, in some cases, beyond geographical boundaries. The Eights Habits of the Heart practiced and lived out in our daily lives builds people and creates a good community.

Those habits are nurturing attitude, responsibility, dependability, friendship, brotherhood, high expectations, courage, and hope.

Pause, now, and re-focus from this heartfelt exposition to our leadership in America today.

Are Taulberts eight habits the traits you sense from them? Or something different?

Back when sit-ins and demonstrations dominated the early 60s in America, the person who led Indias movement to independence from Britain was the often quoted guru of non-violent civil disobedience. He inspired worldwide freedom movements as he campaigned for reconciliation among sub-continent religious sects. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated at age 79 by a religious zealot.

Gandhi spent two decades of his early life in South Africa before he returned to India. It was there campaigning for the oppressed that he began to formulate his non-violent approach to change. South African History Online writes that Gandhi, harboured no hatred in his heart and was always ready to help people in distress. It was this rare combination of readiness to resist wrong and capacity to love his opponent which baffled his enemies and compelled their admiration.

Hmmm.

These days all sorts of Americans gather as they did in the 60s to demonstrate against what they see as wrong in our society. They have a First Amendment right to do so. The key is such assemblies must be peaceable. Most are, but some have escalated into violence.

One of Taulberts habits is brotherhood. He teaches that brotherhood is the habit that reaches beyond comfortable relationships to extend a welcome to those who may be different from yourself. Jesus told us to love each other including our enemies.

While violence is unacceptable, the leadership challenge today is to manage demonstrations using welcoming security methods that encourage peaceable behavior, not incite violence.

So, are our leaders hearts exhibiting a welcoming spirit and nurturing love for our demonstrating citizens who think differently? Are our leaders telling demonstrators their lives have value? Well, besides those who automatically label them animals, terrorists, agitators, and lowlifes.

Gandhi said, It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.

Regrettably, the heartless are among us, too.

Be patient, bearing with one another in love Ephesians 4:2.

Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.

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BILL CRAWFORD: What sort of hearts lead us today? - Meridian Star

Trump to Throw Out First Amendment at Yankee Stadium – The New Yorker

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)In an event that he described as historic, Donald J. Trump announced that he will throw out the First Amendment at Yankee Stadium next month.

Its going to be an amazing and fantastic thing Ill be doing, Trump said. Ive asked a lot of history experts, and they all say that no President has thrown out an amendment before.

Obama was President for eight years and never threw out an amendment, he said. What a loser.

Trump said that he had considered throwing out the First Amendment many, many times before but had ultimately decided to preserve freedom of the press for his friends at Fox News.

But, thanks to that beauty Chris Wallace, now I know that Fox is just as nasty and fake as the rest, he said. The only real journalist left is that nice lady at OAN.

When asked how he is preparing for his Yankee Stadium appearance, Trump said that he is consulting with other world leaders who are experienced in throwing out laws.

I had a terrific conversation with Vladimir Putin, Trump said. They dont have a First Amendment in Russia, but he said that, if they did, he would definitely throw it out. So that made me feel good.

Trump grew misty-eyed as he contemplated his upcoming visit to Yankee Stadium.

I cant believe Ill be throwing out the First Amendment, he said. Every little boy dreams of this.

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Trump to Throw Out First Amendment at Yankee Stadium - The New Yorker

First Amendment Watch: Another Successful Attack On Religious Liberty In America – FITSNews

This is not a pro-Christian post. If you are a worshipper of the moon and enjoy howling at it or gathering mask-less in confined spaces with your fellow lunar disciples while engaging in all manner of ritualistic observances (mooning?), more power to you.

Again, this is not a pro-Christian post it is a pro-freedom post.

In the United States of America, we have freedom of religion or at least we thought we did.

As long as your observances are not depriving others of life, liberty or property, have at it.

Lately, though, this inalienable right has fallen under attack and a court whose justices swore oaths to uphold it (along with our other essential liberties) are allowing it to happen.

The U.S. supreme court led by increasingly left-leaning chief justice John Roberts recently ruled against a San Diego, California church after it sought relief from a state law limiting attendance at religious gatherings. The church argued this edict discriminated against religious institutions at a time when abortion clinics, liquor stores and marijuana shops were allowed to operate without similar limits in place.

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(Via: Getty Images)

Nonetheless, according to Roberts, the churchs claim that its constitutional rights had been violated was quite improbable. And that the elected officials who imposed the edict had acted within the broad limits granted to politically accountable officials of the states during times of crisis.

Needless to say, we were livid not only at the ruling and those who supported it, but at the door it opened for further discrimination.

This is a deeply troubling ruling one which poses a clear and present danger to the most fundamental of all American liberties, we wrote at the time. As a result of Roberts latest sellout, the highest court in the nation has formally created conditions under which it is acceptable for governments to not only suppress religious freedom but actively discriminate against religion itself.

Not surprisingly, the courts ruling has emboldened liberal politicians to take further steps against religious freedom and the court is clearly not going to do anything to stop them.

This week, Roberts once again displayed his contempt for religious liberty by joining the four liberal justices on the bench in denying a request from a church located near Carson City, Nevada. This congregation had asked the justices to overturn a similar state law capping church attendance a law imposed at a time when casinos, gyms, restaurants and other entities were allowed to operate at fifty percent of their posted capacity.

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Justice Samuel Alito ripped the majority opinion, saying while it was not surprising Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees this courts willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing.

Indeed it is

We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility, Alito continued. For months now, states and their subdivisions have responded to the pandemic by imposing unprecedented restrictions on personal liberty, including the free exercise of religion.

The best response in the case, however, came from justice Neil Gorsuch.

In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion, he wrote. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion.

Here is his masterful, one-paragraph dissent

The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, posses unusual challenges, he concluded. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.

Amen to that

John Roberts has abandoned his oath, U.S. senator Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted. But, on the upside, maybe Nevada churches should set up craps tables? Then they could open?

Such is the sad state of religious liberty in the land of the free.

-FITSNews

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First Amendment Watch: Another Successful Attack On Religious Liberty In America - FITSNews

Harvard Law Professor Analyzes Hingham Firefighters’ Refusal To Remove So-Called ‘Thin Blue Line’ Flags From Trucks – wgbh.org

Firefighters in Hingham, Mass., are continuing to display a version of the American flag black and white with a blue stripe on their fire trucks. The firefighters say it's there to show support for the police, but their bosses say it's an inappropriate political statement and it has to come down. All Things Considered host Arun Rath spoke with Noah Feldman, a professor of law at Harvard Law School, on Wednesday about the controversy. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Arun Rath: And first, to give people some background, because in case you're not familiar, this flag that has the blue stripe in it, the supporters say that it's supposed to show support for the police. Right now in our current context, its also come up as is being shown in opposition to Black Lives Matter and that movement. And there were apparently some complaints from some citizens in Hingham along those lines. It sounds like it might be established law, but give us the foundation here.

First, do employers have the right to limit these kind of political displays in the workplace? And does it make a difference if we're talking about a private business or, say, the firefighters?

Noah Feldman: Well, first of all, it can make a difference. Certainly, a private employer can decide what flag will be displayed in the workplace. But that's because a private employer is also not governed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Government is a different matter. Government is governed by the First Amendment, and government can't limit citizens' free speech. So that's why this becomes sort of interesting and even a little bit complicated from a constitutional perspective.

The thing to keep in mind here is that if private citizens who were serving the government wanted to speak on their own, they would have some capacity to do so without being told what to say by the government. But because in this case, the flags that they're flying are on firetrucks, which are government property, it's almost certainly the case under existing law that if the town's executive say you have to take the flags down, that they are obligated to take the flags down.

Rath: And is there precedent in case law that supports that from the past?

Feldman: In general, the precedent here is a principle called government speech. The government is entitled, when it's speaking through its official channels, to say whatever it wants. It can express any point of view that it chooses. It can promote a view. It can argue against a view. The government can run public service announcements telling you to go out to vote. The government can have a holiday called Columbus Day, which some people don't like because, you know, [what was] originally intended to say nice things about Italian Americans is now construed by some to be, you know, papering over of a history of invasion and imperialism and even genocide. But the government is still entitled to do it.

And similarly, the government can decide what messages will or won't be conveyed on its property, including its firetrucks. So that's the general principle here.

Rath: And is there total clarity when it comes to saying what counts as political speech? It may be clear in a case like this, but are there other displays that would be considered nonpolitical and therefore, OK?

Feldman: Well, here it does get a little bit trickier because, you know, if the town of Hingham suddenly wanted to fly flags from its firetruck saying 'Vote Democrat' or 'Vote Republican,' it could be the case that it would be crossing a line that's very well established in American politics namely, that local governments and the federal government are not supposed to themselves express preferences that are partisan political. So that that would be a circumstance which might be relevant.

But broadly speaking, there isn't, other than a town policy here, a general constitutional principle that says that a town or a city couldn't say something that was political in its own right. So, you know, having Columbus Day is political. The state of Massachusetts does it. And that's OK. So what's going on here is that in Hingham, the town says it has a policy of not allowing political speech. But it doesn't have to have that policy to be able to choose what flag it flies.

Arun: Well, I was going to ask about that, because we've seen it in other areas where local governments are actually endorsing, even promoting political speech I think of New York City, where the city painted Black Lives Matter in front of Trump Tower. But that's OK because that's their policy?

Feldman: Exactly. That's their policy. And that's what they want to express.

Now, what Hingham says is that they have a written policy that says no political speech. And I suppose if the firefighters wanted to go to court and challenge an order for them to take down the flags, what their best argument would be would be to say, 'Well, you say that this is a political policy, a policy of no political speech. But this isn't political speech.' And then ask the court to determine the meaning of Hinghams policies. That would be different from a constitutional argument. It would just be saying, 'Hey, we don't think you're applying your own policy correctly.'

Rath: And where could this potentially go legally from here? Could the firefighters union challenge this policy?

Feldman: You know, I suppose they could. The firefighters don't have an individual right to fly any flags that they want from the firetrucks. And so far as I can tell, at least in the news stories that I've read, they haven't asserted that they have such a right. On the other hand, they have said, 'Well, gee, none of us have found it in our hearts to take down the flag.' So they're engaged right now in a kind of, I would say, gentle civil disobedience with respect to these flags.

If they were really pushed, I suppose they could go to court and ask the court to say that the town was not correctly enforcing its own policy. I think a court would be pretty skeptical of that because in general, courts like to be deferential to government officials who are reasonably enforcing their own policy. And I think they probably would say that a flag with a message is almost inherently something political and therefore up to the town to determine whether or not they can fly or not.

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Harvard Law Professor Analyzes Hingham Firefighters' Refusal To Remove So-Called 'Thin Blue Line' Flags From Trucks - wgbh.org