The Indefensible.

Amyiah Cohoon was is a sixteen year old sophomore who in March of 2020 was attending Westfield Area High School in Westfield, Wisconsin.

Free Speech On Campus – Better, But Not Great.

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has released it’s annual report concerning free speech on college campuses for the year.

The major findings of the report are:

1) The percentage of schools earning an overall “red light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database has gone down for the twelfth year in a row, this year to 24.2%. This is over a four percentage point drop from last year, and is exactly 50 percentage points lower than the percentage of red light institutions in FIRE’s 2009 report.

2) The percentage of private universities earning a red light rating, which stood at 47.1% last year, continued to decrease, coming in at 44.8% this year.

The First Amendment And Government Property: Free Speech Rules

Part of a continuing series:

The five rules of the First Amendment and Government Property

Rule 1: A few forms of government property are treated as so-called “traditional public forums.” There, the government generally can’t exclude speech based on its content.

The classic examples are sidewalks and parks, as well as streets used for parades. Unless speech falls within one of the narrow First Amendment exceptions, the government can’t restrict it. Such places are technically government property; but that gives the government no extra authority to control such speech.

Hands On Originals Wins……..Again.

We’ve covered the case of Lexington, Kentucky printer Hands On Originals before here and here.

The Cliff Notes version of this case is rather simple.

In 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) sought quotes for tee-shirts for a Gay Pride Festival. The organizing committee called various shops asking for quotes based on a tee shirt with printing on the front and back of the shirt.

Hands on Original was the lowest bidder for the shirts. The GLSO then called Blaine Adamson, the owner of Hands On Originals in an attempt to negotiate a lower price for the tee-shirts. At this time, the caller identified the group he was representing and the fact that the message on the tee-shirts was to promote a gay pride festival and parade.

Adamson declined to print the tee-shirts as the message was against the company’s beliefs.

One of the important things to note here is that Adamson did not decline to print the tee-shirts because of the sexual orientation of the group, but the message the group wanted on the shirts.

In 2014, the GLSO filed a complaint with the the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission which found that Hands on Originals had discriminated against the GLSO.

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other.

If you know anything about us, it is that we are huge defenders of speech and the First Amendment. We will fight, argue and advocate for increasing the “marketplace of ideas” rather than government censorship or the government allowing others to censor people while at a government event.

We may find the ideas that people espouse to be ridiculous and vile, but we will defend their rights to be sphincter muscles.

There are two case going around and frankly, we have been disappointed in the response from conservatives on at least one of them.

First is the case of Essex County College Adjunct Professor Lisa Durdin.

Earlier this month, political commentator Lisa Durden gave a fiery interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, defending a Black Lives Matter chapter’s decision to host a Memorial Day event exclusively for black people.

“Boo-hoo-hoo,” Lisa Durden, who is also an adjunct professor at Essex County College in Newark, said in the June 6 television appearance. “You white people are angry because you couldn’t use your ‘white privilege’ card to get invited to the Black Lives Matter’s all-black Memorial Day celebration.”

In the heated exchange, Carlson responded by calling her “hostile and separatist and crazy.”

“You’re demented actually,” he said. “You’re sick and what you’re saying is disgusting and if you were a Nazi I would say the same thing to you.”

Durden’s remarks spurred both criticism and praise on social media. But what happened less than 48 hours later prompted an even stronger reaction.

On June 8, with about a week left of her summer session of teaching, Durden’s employers at Essex County College suspended her. About two weeks later, Durden was fired from the community college.

The college’s president announced the decision in a lengthy statement Friday, days after Durden met with school officials in a community forum.

It is stunning to us that a college professor would not only sanction, but advocate for segregation. Furthermore, what white person wants to sit in a class taught by a woman who thinks they have some sort of “white privilege” card. How can anyone in that class think they are being graded on the basis of their work and not the color of their skin?

There are a lot of people in this world who like to make outrageous statements to get attention and perhaps that is what Durden was doing. It doesn’t mean that Durden’s comments don’t reflect what she thinks.

Either way, Durden’s comments came back onto the college who fired her.

Speech Wins. Again.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court published its opinion on the case of Matal v. Tam<./a> This is the case often referred to as “The Slants” case in which the Patent and Trademark Office denied the Slants the ability to copyright the name of the band.

Quoting the decision:

This case concerns a dance-rock band’s application for federal trademark registration of the band’s name, “The Slants.” “Slants” is a derogatory term for persons of Asian descent, and members of the band are Asian-Americans. But the band members believe that by taking that slur as the name of their group, they will help to “reclaim” the term and drain its denigrating force.

The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied the application based on a provision of federal law prohibiting the registration of trademarks that may “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” 15 U. S. C. §1052(a).

The Slants sued the government on First Amendment grounds.

The arguments and positions from both the Slants and the government are pretty interesting.

The Slants argued that the regulation was being interpreted too broadly by the PTO in covering who groups of people when the statute clearly states “individuals” and persons. The Slants argued that the PTO had allowed other disparaging trademarks previously.

The government argued that the trademark was government speech and not subject to the provisions of the First Amendment. The government also argued that the speech in question was “government subsidized,” and therefore the government could control the content.

The Supreme Court voted 8-0 that the disparagement clause being used by the PTO was unConstitutional.

We loved this part of the decision: (more…)

East Lansing Punishes Farm Owners Outside The City For Their Beliefs.

Steve Tennes owns a farm that is 22 miles outside of of East Lansing, Michigan. Since 2010, Tennes has been a staple at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, operating without a complaint. In fact, Tennes’ reputation, goods and service was so good that year after year he was invited back to the market.

In August of 2016, Tennes posted on Facebook his Catholic based beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman and that he would not support or attend a gay marriage held on his farm. (This was prior to the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.) The post had nothing to do with East Lansing or the Farmers’ Market.

When East Lansing officials saw the post they demanded that Tennes leave the market even though he had a contract for two more months and had not broken any laws in East Lansing or elsewhere. All Tennes had done was issue a statement about his beliefs.

When the East Lansing officials discovered that they could not force him out, they passed a new ordinance saying that venders – even those who are based outside of East Lansing – must comply with a Civil Rights Ordinance within the City. In other words, East Lansing said “we are extending our laws and beliefs outside of the City.”

It should be remembered that Tennes had never now sold or denied a sale to anyone in the Farmers’ Market.

Once the Supreme Court decision came down legalizing gay marriage, Tennes stuck to his principles and declared that no marriages would be performed on his farm.

At no point in time can anyone point to or cite where Tennes ever broke the law in discriminating against anyone.

More Educational Stupidity. Silver Cross Is “Disrespectful.”

(courtesy Liberty Council)

This is a case which is more of a “two-fer” – a activist teacher who is a bully and a school and school district that are completely, totally and utterly ignorant or stupid and most likely both.

The story begins with a student attending Riverview High School in Hillsborough County, FL, made an “egregious” error in a math class taught by one Lora Jane Riedas:

One of our student clients reports that she had just sat down in class, and placed her books on her desk, when Ms. Riedas approached her. Referencing the tiny cross necklace which was around the student’s neck, Ms. Riedas said, “I need you to take your necklace off.” Our client asked “Why?” and Ms. Riedas refused to explain, stating “That’s disrespectful; you have to take it off.”

The cross in question is shown above and measures less than an inch.

The student acquiesced to the Riedas’ ridiculous and unConstitional demand, but when she told her parents, they investigated and found other children who had been subjected Riedes’ bullying by being told to remove religious jewelry. The parents did the smart thing and reached out to the Liberty Counsel for legal representation.

Liberty Counsel took the case and sent a demand letter (seen below) to the Hillsborough School Superintendent, one Jeff Eakins. The letter states the reason the teacher has banned the wearing of religious jewelry:

Ms. Riedas has prohibited at least three children from wearing Christian cross necklaces in her classroom, claiming on occasion that they are “gang symbols.”

This is the type of thinking and reasoning that a teacher has in a high school?

“Gang symbols?”

Of course, the question would be “if they are ‘gang symbols,’ to what ‘gang’ the symbols belong?”

The Supreme Court case in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District is quite clear on this issue:

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