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Category Archives: First Amendment

AG Ferguson leads multistate lawsuit over new Trump Administration effort to allow release of 3D-printed guns – Access Washington

Posted: January 24, 2020 at 6:48 am

Federal judge found previous attempt unlawful

SEATTLE Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Trump Administrations latest effort to allow 3D-printed gun files to be released on the internet, leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general. These files would allow plug-and-play access to 3D-print unregistered, untraceable firearms that can also be very difficult to detect, even with a metal detector. Untraceable firearms are sometimes called ghost guns.

As a result of Fergusons previous multistate lawsuit, a federal judge in Seattle struck down the Trump Administrations prior attempt to allow the release of the files. Now, the administration has embarked on a new effort by pursuing formal rules. Those rules were made available to the public last week, and were finalized today.

Today, Ferguson and the multistate coalition filed a lawsuit in Seattle in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, arguing those rules are unlawful for many of the same reasons as the previous attempt.

Why is the Trump Administration working so hard to allow domestic abusers, felons and terrorists access to untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns? Ferguson said. Even the president himself said in a tweet that this decision didnt make any sense one of the rare instances when I agreed with him. We will continue to stand up against this unlawful, dangerous policy.

In 2015, Defense Distributed, an organization dedicated to global distribution of open-source, downloadable 3D-printed guns, sued the Obama Administration after the U.S. State Department forced Defense Distributed to remove the files from the internet. The federal government successfully argued before federal trial and appellate courts that posting the files online violates firearm export laws and poses a serious threat to national security and public safety. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In defending against Defense Distributeds lawsuit, the federal government previously stated it was particularly concerned that [the] proposed export of undetectable firearms technology could be used in an assassination, for the manufacture of spare parts by embargoed nations, terrorist groups, or to compromise aviation security overseas in a manner specifically directed at U.S. persons.

Then, in an abrupt reversal, the Trump Administration settled the case on June 29, 2018. As part of the settlement, the Trump Administration agreed to allow unlimited public distribution on the internet of the downloadable files for 3D-printed guns.

In July 2018, President Trump wrote on Twitter: I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesnt seem to make much sense!

Ferguson filed a lawsuit July 30, 2018. On Nov. 12, 2019, Judge Robert Lasnik ruled that the Trump Administrations decision to allow the files distribution was arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.

Given the agency's prior position regarding the need to regulate 3D-printed firearms and the CAD files used to manufacture them, it must do more than simply announce a contrary position, Judge Lasnik wrote. Overall, the Department of State concluded that the worldwide publication of computerized instructions for the manufacture of undetectable firearms was a threat to world peace and the national security interests of the United States and would cause serious and long-lasting harm to its foreign policy. Against these findings, the federal defendants offer nothing.

After losing in court, the Trump Administration is trying again, this time by publishing new rules that would transfer regulation of 3D-printed guns from the State Department to the Department of Commerce, effectively allowing their unlimited distribution.

Trump Administration acknowledges risks, grave concern

In the rules, the administration acknowledges the dangers posed by the distribution of 3D-printed gun files: Such items could be easily used in the proliferation of conventional weapons, the acquisition of destabilizing numbers of such weapons, or for acts of terrorism. The potential for the ease of access to the software and technology, undetectable means of production, and potential to inflict harm on U.S. persons and allies abroad present a grave concern for the United States.

However, due to loopholes in the Commerce regulations, the agency will lack the power to regulate 3D-printed guns in any meaningful way.

Regulation is constitutional

The administration also acknowledged that regulating the distribution of 3D-printed gun files does not violate the First or Second Amendments, as some critics have claimed: Limitations on the dissemination of such functional technology and software do not violate the right to free expression under the First Amendment. Nor does the final rule violate the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.

3D-printed gun crime

In 2017, a Texas man was arrested after firing a 3D-printed gun in a wooded area outside Dallas. He had a hit list of federal lawmakers, including their home addresses. The man was barred from having a firearm in 2015 after a domestic violence incident.

Legal arguments

Fergusons new lawsuit asserts that the rule is unlawful for similar reasons as the previous effort. The administration has still offered no evidence supporting their about-face on the risks of allowing unregulated access to firearms worldwide, making the rule arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In fact, the administration agrees that regulation is needed, even though its new regulations are toothless and will not prevent the global dissemination of 3D-printed guns.

In providing public notice of the rule, the administration mentioned other changes to regulations for small firearms, but not the changes to 3D-printed guns. That failure to provide meaningful public notice also violates the APA.

The states participating in todays lawsuit are: Washington, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

Assistant Attorneys General Jeff Rupert, Kristin Beneski and Brendan Selby are leading the case for Washington.

Successful legislation in Washington

Ferguson has also taken action on 3D-printed guns at the state level,successfully introducing agency-request legislationto ban the manufacture or possession of untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns. The new law also prohibits sending a printable gun file to a person who is ineligible to possess firearms.

Ferguson has filed 55 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson has 24 legal victories against the Trump Administration. Sixteen of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has or may appeal the other eight, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers and rules restricting contraception access. No court to rule on the merits of the Attorney Generals arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against the office.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit http://www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Contacts:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov

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Lobby Day attracts 2A advocates from the NRV and beyond – Southwest Times

Posted: at 6:48 am

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

Monday, Jan. 20, Lobby Day at the Virginia state capitol in Richmond was dominated by tens of thousands of pro Second Amendment supporters who came to voice their displeasure at new gun control laws that are set to be passed by the Democrat dominated General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.

In advance of the widely publicized event, governor Northam declared a temporary state of emergency and warned of the potential for violence at the rally. Instead, no incidents of violence were reported, though the crowd was sometimes boisterous chanting several slogans including, We will not comply and Guns save lives.

The latter phrase proved to be ubiquitous, as most everyone in the crowd had a bright orange Guns Save Lives sticker on some part of their clothing. Pro-Trump hats and shirts were also a popular form of attire at the rally.

Due to the declaration of a state of emergency, a temporary chain link fence was erected around the capitol grounds and Virginia State Police wearing bright yellow safety vests were deployed in great numbers in and around the capitol. Several streets were also closed off for the occasion.

To enter the capitol grounds, one had to wait in a long line because all those entering were obliged to walk through a metal detector. In addition, those entering the grounds were wanded by a state police officer before being allowed through.

Several citizens of the New River Valley made the trip to Richmond for the event. According to Tom Miller, of Newport in Giles County, 16 busses came from all parts of the NRV.

Im not a gun nut, just a gun owner and I looked at the laws being proposed and its really scary, said Miller. I know several law enforcement people that are friends and theyre concerned about enforcement of these laws.

Two residents from the Town of Pulaski, Twila Clark and John DeLad, also made their way to the Lobby Day event. They both traveled four and a half hours to come to the event and both were quite happy to be there, though Twila did note how the 30 degree temperatures paired with high winds affected her.

Im freezing, said Twila.

But what prompted them to make the trek?

The Second Amendment is all about human rights and theyre constantly chipping away at it, said DeLad. So Im glad the people are protesting and letting them know that weve had enough of them treading on the Second Amendment. They want to disarm us. This is just the start of what theyve got going on. People are here from other states because they know what happens here will affect everyone eventually.

People from other states were most definitely present. This reporter spoke to individuals from several states.

The Second Amendment rights defend all of the rest of the rights and were here to defend it, said a fellow from Montana who drove 2,400 miles with his group to get to Richmond.

Others, many of whom were visibly armed with large guns, came from Indiana, Michigan, Oregon and several other far flung locations. Most of those present, however, came from the Commonwealth.

Noah Reaser and Cameron Thompson came from Virginia Beach and both had their AR 15s strapped to their personal body armor.

Its a matter of fact that the AR-15 is just one of the best designed rifles out there, Reaser stated. Its just easy to use. It shoots a very small cartridge, thats actually too small to hunt deer. Lots of things people say about this rifle is simply not true. It doesnt shoot a high powered cartridge compared to other rifles.

Darlene Moehling and her sister Kathy Brown came from Midlothian, Virginia, and were surprisingly stalwart in their defense of the Second Amendment.

Its so important to realize the Second Amendment is not about hunting rights, its about protecting ourselves and our families from a tyrannical government, said Darlene. If you look what is happening right now with impeachment, you can clearly see the government is out of control. For all the housewives in Midlothian, I am here showing support.

If you take away the Second Amendment, then why not the First Amendment and theyre very close to taking away the First Amendment as it is now with all of these laws around hate speech, said sister Kathy. The First Amendment is not about being able to say what everybody wants to hear. Its about being able to voice the things people dont want to hear and being able to do that with freedom.

Though the General Assembly was in session, Senator Ben Chafin, who represents the 38th District, made time to speak with The Southwest Times about Mondays rally.

This event was well-planned and the people who attended were respectful, stated Chafin. They were very enthusiastic about their First Amendment rights and their Second Amendment rights and I think theres a movement afoot that hopefully is gaining momentum, as we speak.

When asked about rumors of violence surrounding the rally, Chafin had this to say.

We heard from the governor about the possibility of violence and a congressman made certain statements about bringing in the National Guard. I think that a lot of hype and hyperbole can create fear. Weve been doing this for years and years and I dont see anything different about this year except that more people turned out because they understand that some of their protections and rights are threatened. These red flag laws are not designed to protect anybody. These laws are designed to take guns away from lawful gun owners.

John Veldhuyven came from Fredericksburg with his dad. He was carrying a sign that supported gay marriage and the right to defend ones marijuana crops with a firearm.

I believe in representing individual liberty and supporting human rights, said Veldhuyven. I believe that ultimately people own themselves your one true birthright. When you are born, you own your life. And how that relates to guns is you have the right to defend yourself. That same reasoning applies to all the other rights on this line. If I own my life, I have the right to consume whatever substance I see fit. I have the right to live my life with whoever I see fit.

As some have mentioned, the day went off without a hitch. Several speakers, brought in by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, addressed the crowd and were met with enthusiastic cheers.

Perhaps the most vociferous moment of the gathering was when everyone present began singing the National Anthem, which was immediately followed by chants of U.S.A. U.S.A.!

All told, the crowd of several thousand acted with self-restraint. Several of those gathered made a point of personally thanking many of the hundreds of state police that were present for coming to the rally.

In addition, unlike other rallies for other causes held in the same location and throughout the country, participants in the gun rights rally made a point of picking up any trash from the capitol grounds and surrounding streets as they left.

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

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 11:17 am

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

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

Posted: at 11:17 am

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

Posted: at 11:17 am

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

Posted: at 11:17 am

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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10 years later, Americans stand opposed to Citizens United | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: at 11:17 am

Prevailing narratives portray the American people as sharply divided on nearly every issue. Political polarization seems to permeate every aspect of our lives. But the reality is much less black-and-white than we are led to believe. While Americans do hold issue-specific disagreements, there is a growing consensus across the political spectrum that politics as usual is not working and that our government is in need of fundamental reform.

The average American, regardless of political ideology, does not feel represented in our system, and for good reason they arent. Policy outcomes rarely reflect the wishes of the majority of Americans, while the preferences of economic elites greatly influence legislation. This system, where ultra-wealthy donors and special interests exert control over Washington, has been forming since the 1970s, but it was exacerbated by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case, which upended former campaign finance limits by stating that unlimited political spending, by individuals or by corporations, is protected as free speech under the First Amendment.

In the 10 years since Citizens United, the biggest effect to the political system has been to engage and empower the very wealthiest Americans, across the political spectrum, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. The Brennan Center for Justice says the ruling created a new political landscape that favors the super rich above all others.

In 2000, approximately $1.6 billion was spent on congressional elections. In 2018, the number had jumped to $5.7 billion. Total individual donors to Super PACs grew from $299 million to $1.1 billion in just the two years from 2014 to 2016. Total spending in the 2020 elections is projected to top $10 billion. The proliferation of campaign spending has turned into a political arms race that compels the two major political parties and candidates for elected office to seek donors who can cut the biggest checks and appease their ultra-wealthy donors by passing favorable legislation, regardless of how it affects their constituents or the American people at large.

There is a silver lining to the story, however. While the Citizens United ruling has proved disastrous for our democratic self-governance, its effects are unifying Americans of all political persuasions, who see the effects of a big money system that drowns out their voices in a cacophony of cash from wealthy mega-donors. The cross-partisan movement that is now fomenting embodies the same energy that has led to systemic change in our nations pastand its calling for the only solution that will address the Supreme Courts wrong decision in Citizen United: passing a constitutional amendment.

Powerful, moneyed forces are working diligently to keep the pay-to-play system intact, in part by politicizing critical democratic reforms. The movement for an amendment to address this issue has been deliberately mischaracterized as a liberal pursuit. This could not be further from the truth.

Opposition to unlimited political spending is neither a liberal nor a conservative issue. In recent surveys, Americans across the political spectrum say there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and corporations can spend on campaigns, that big donors have more influence than others, and that political corruption is the biggest crisis facing the nation. A constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is backed by 66 percent of Republican voters, and ending political corruption (i.e. draining the swamp) was a key factor in Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MOREs successful 2016 presidential bid.

Conservatives have plenty of reasons to support the amendment. As Republican former Sen. Jim Rubens put it, ending the dominance of big money in politics is tied to the fundamental conservative principles around which the Republican party is built. Unlimited political spending is undermining free-market capitalism and faith in the American constitutional republic. In a recent poll 61 percent of Americans aged 18-24 have a positive view of socialism, and only 17 percent of voters trust the federal government.

Meanwhile big government occupies and controls a larger share of the economy and increasingly picks economic winners and losers via tax subsidies, regulatory carve-outs, spending programs and contract awards. Businesses compete by buying influence in Washington, rather than by offering better products and services to consumers. Republican former Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa says Citizens United has genetically altered our democratic DNA, pushing American politics in an oligarchic, corporatist direction.

Another myth surrounding the amendment movement is that it is anti-capitalist. The amendment, in fact, would help re-establish the principles of competition and innovation that underpin American capitalism. Currently, a small number of huge global corporations are able to mobilize armies of lobbyists and pump money into Super PACs to influence elections and policies, quashing competition from small businesses that do not have the budget to compete.

Hundreds of business leaders from across the nation have expressed concerns about the implications of pay-to-play politics for our economy and our global competitiveness. The Committee for Economic Development (CED), a nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization has long advocated increased disclosure and transparency. In a 2013 CED report, 87 percent of surveyed business executives say the U.S. campaign finance system is in need of major reform. Rules that foster pay-to-play do not help business, but threaten innovation, healthy markets, and economic growth.

Americans of all backgrounds and political persuasions have the opportunity to affect real change and take political power back from an unaccountable elite by joining the growing movement for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Last year, New Hampshire became the 20th state to call on Congress to pass such an amendment, passing the halfway mark to the 38 states needed for ratification. More than 800 towns have passed resolutions in support of the amendment. Furthermore, 13 current and former 2020 presidential candidates signed a Candidate Pledge, committing to advance the amendment if theyre elected. It is time for every American to stand up and demand an end to the domination of wealthy elite special interests by ending the era of Citizens United with a constitutional amendment.

Leah Field is managing director of American Promise.

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

Posted: at 11:17 am

Editor:

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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Merrill, St. Germain take different approaches on 2nd Amendment Sanctuary status – WJFW-TV

Posted: at 11:17 am

NORTHWOODS - While discussing the second amendment Monday, people in St. Germain exercised their first amendment rights.

Steve Carlberg came to the meeting in support of the resolution.

"They gave us the guns to have a militia to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic," said Carlberg. "That includes our own government."

Eric Olsen spoke in opposition to the resolution.

In the end both sides agreed, for the most part, that the issue is too important for a rushed decision. The town board unanimously approved a motion to put a Second Amendment Sanctuary question on the spring ballot.

"They did the right thing in there," said Carlberg. "Let's hear what the town has to say first, the majority of the townfolk - that's the American way."

"We don't need protection for guns," said a Merrill citizen at a city council. "We need protection from guns."

All four people who spoke during the public comment period were against the resolution. Citizens echoed the concerns about attracting tourists; and risking further endangering people experiencing domestic violence.

"Being a sanctuary city or sanctuary county, [that] would deny those families the protections the court is granting if nobody is going to enforce it," said a Merrill citizen.

Steven Osness is the Merrill alderman who introduced the resolution. He said it is a step in the right direction to protect people's constitutional rights.

"We want to protect the constitutional rights of people," said Osness. "If it's a first amendment, a second amendment, any amendment. We just want to ban together and protect our rights and freedoms."

In 6 to 2 vote, the City Council declared Merrill a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary. Lincoln and Langlade Counties will consider the second amendment sanctuary resolution at a later date.

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David L. Hudson Jr. | The ‘bedrock principle’ of the First Amendment – TribDem.com

Posted: January 7, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Many people recoil at the notion that the First Amendment protects the speech that they most dislike or detest.

The late great Nat Hentoff captured this censorial impulse in his Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee.

But the reality is that the First Amendment protects much speech that is obnoxious, offensive and repugnant.

Justice William Brennan captured this principle eloquently in his majority opinion in the flag-burning decision Texas v. Johnson (1989):

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

The case involved the protest activities of Gregory Lee Johnson, who burned an American flag in 1984 in Dallas, the site of the Republican National Convention. While Johnson doused the flag with kerosene, others chanted, America, red, white and blue, we spit on you.

Johnson and others protested the policies of the Reagan administration and a coming second term for the president.

Of all the protesters, authorities arrested only Johnson and charged him with violating a Texas flag desecration law.

The court decided the case by the narrowest of margins, 5-4. Brennan emphasized that the state of Texas essentially was punishing Johnson for his dissident political views more than tarnishing a venerated object.

The way to preserve the flags special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters, Brennan wrote. It is to persuade them they are wrong.

In dissent, Chief Justice William Rehnquist analogized Johnsons burning of the flag to fighting words. But, in this case, Brennans view prevailed.

A lasting legacy of Brennans opinion in Texas v. Johnson is his bedrock principle phrase, which has come to represent a cardinal principle of First Amendment law that the First Amendment protects much offensive expression.

David L. Hudson Jr. is a First Amendment Fellow at the Freedom Forum Institute and a law professor at Belmont University.

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