Category Archives: First Amendment

South Dakota requires all public schools to PROMINENTLY display “In God We Trust”

We all know that “In God We Trust” is the U.S. national motto, though the unofficial motto—a much better one—is E pluribus unum (“Out of many, one”). The former is divisive, the latter unifying. The change in mottos was made in 1956, during the Cold War, and was largely a response to “godless Communism”: an […]

I was wrong about religious proselytizing in National Parks

Yesterday, incensed by the presence of a pair of proselytizing Jehovah’s Witnesses in a lovely little National Park, Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, I wrote a post wondering whether this kind of leaflet-mongering was legal, or somehow violated the First Amendment. According to reader Jenny Haniver’s comment on that post, my suspicions that this […]

Another defeat for the First Amendment: Supreme Court rules that the “Bladensburg cross” is not a religious symbol

The strategy of American courts in their desire to continue allowing religious incursion into the government—be it “In God We Trust” on our money or religious symbols on public land—has been to pretend that religious symbols and mottos morph into nonreligious, historical and secular icons over time. This is patently bogus, an offense to anybody […]

Southern states try to circumvent the First Amendment by teaching the Bible in public schools

I’ve always been wary of teaching “religious studies” below the college level, and for two reasons. First, as in the case discussed below, it’s too often an excuse to proselytize religion in public schools—a violation of the First Amendment. Second, even if you’re doing it to give children a sense of history and culture, there […]

Williams College finally allows a pro-Israel student organization to exist, but without official approval

On April 25 I reported that the Williams College student council, by a vote of 13-8, rejected the bid of Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI), a pro-Israel student organization, to join the many student organizations already approved. These include the pro-Palestinian organization Students for Justice In Palestine (SJP). Based on its actions and anti-Zionist stand, […]

Nadine Strossen’s new book on hate speech, why such speech should not be censored or banned, and its relevance to recent campus events

I’ve just finished Nadine Strossen‘s 2018 book, HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship, one of 16 volumes in the series “Inalienable Rights,” edited by University of Chicago constitutional law professor Geoffrey Stone.  Click on the screenshot to go to the book’s Amazon site: Strossen was president of the American Civil […]

Court rules that flipping someone off is free speech

If you had asked me before this story broke whether giving someone the finger counts as protected free speech, I would have said, “Yes.” After all, it’s an expression that doesn’t hurt anyone physically and is simply a gesture that expresses one’s feelings. If burning an American flag is considered free speech, as it is, […]

U of C minority law students boycott “admitted students weekend” after University fails to condemn professor who used “n-word” in class as an example; students further call for restrictions on free speech

I’ll try to be brief here, but there’s a new series of incidents on my campus that has wound up with some law students calling for restrictions on free speech, and free speech is a flagship principle of the University of Chicago. The incident involves Professor Geoffrey Stone of the Law School, who was the […]

FFRF loses a slam-dunk case in Federal appellate court

If ever a First Amendment case looked like a winner, it was this one: the U.S. government keeps giving a tax exemption to ministers so that their housing allowances provided by the church—allowances that could be substantial, and include house renovations—remain tax free. No other people save “ministers of the gospel” (I assume that includes […]

Is there a cogent argument against free speech?

I’m not 100%, set-in-stone wedded to the American courts’ interpretation of free speech and the First Amendment. I think it’s the best interpretation going, but I’m always looking for viable arguments that it should be modified. Here’s what purports to be one, but in the end proves limp and toothless. The argument is given in […]