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Speaking Of The First Amendment…..

Talk about being timely. As we we were surfing the ‘net while thinking about the First Amendment, we came upon this video from Stephen Crowder who interviewed some students at the University of Michigan. The University recently implemented an “Inclusive Language” program that oddly enough, many people see as a restriction of speech by seeking to ban certain words and terms.

(Sometimes we feel that we are trapped in some Orwellian novel where “inclusive” means to “ban or prohibit use or participation.)

The Crowder video is a little different in that it is not a “gotcha” video where people are asked a question and then the video is edited to show ridiculous answers. Crowder seeks to have real, honest conversations with students and faculty. The results are intriguing and troubling.

The University of Michigan took some pretty big steps toward stifling free speech on its campus this month. Just how important is the 1st amendment to students today, and is it our duty to protect it? Watch to find out!




“Je suis Charlie” Dies A Quick Death.

(image courtesy the New Yorker magazine.)

(image courtesy the New Yorker magazine.)

Well, that didn’t take long. After the groundswell of support for the writers and artists at Charlie Hebdo last week, things have returned to “normal.”

Two men entered the French satirical magazine offices killing twelve people (including two police officers) as well as wounding eleven others. The attacks were in response to cartoons that the magazine had run which “offended” the two men.

The vast majority of the world stood up and said “we aren’t going to accept this. We aren’t going to allow the expression of ideas and words to be suppressed.”

It was a “feel good” moment which quickly died on the vine.

PARIS France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism, announcing Wednesday that 54 people had been arrested for those offenses since terror attacks left 20 dead in Paris last week, including three gunmen.

The order came as Charlie Hebdo’s defiant new issue sold out before dawn around Paris, with scuffles at kiosks over dwindling copies of the satirical newspaper that fronted the Prophet Muhammad anew on its cover.

France has been tightening security and searching for accomplices since the terror attacks began, but none of the 54 people have been linked to the attacks. That’s raising questions about whether President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government is impinging on the very freedom of speech that it so vigorously defends when it comes to Charlie Hebdo.

In its message to prosecutors and judges, the ministry said it was issuing the order to protect freedom of expression from comments that could incite violence or hatred. It said no one should be allowed to use their religion to justify hate speech.

We are certainly against the spreading of terroristic messages, but we also realize that in the name of “terrorism” and “hate speech,” ideas can and do get caught in the backlash. For example, a person saying that homosexuality is wrong based on their religious beliefs would fall under “hate speech.” A statement such as “Jesus was the Son of God and Mohammed was a false prophet” would be considered “hate speech” simply because someone is “offended.”
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Schools Still Don’t Understand The First Amendment.

Alliance-Defending-Freedom-ROHChase Windebank is a senior attending Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The school has an “Open Time” policy which allows students to interact with other students for the students.

The school district’s Open Time Policy permits all students to leave class 15 minutes after the beginning of the “seminar” home-room period on Mondays

and Wednesdays. Students who are earning more than a “D” grade can do the same on Fridays. School district policies and procedures define “open time” in numerous places as consisting of lunchtime and the seminar period.

During the free time, students are permitted to engage in a virtually unlimited variety of activities, including gathering with other students inside or outside; reading; sending text messages to their friends; playing games on their phone; visiting the bathrooms; getting a snack; visiting teachers; and conducting official meetings of school clubs.

For three years Windebank has been using the time to meet with other students in the choir room to converse, pray and sing praise songs. No one has complained about the students meeting and the students have never had a conduct issue while meeting.

That all changed this year when after a few meetings, Wildebank was told by the principal that the meetings had to stop due to “separation of church and state.”

Ummmm….. what?
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Forest Service Wants Photography Permits For Wilderness Areas.

US-Forest-Service-Permit-Required-ROHThe US Forestry Service is seeking public comments on a proposal that would require permits for photography in designated wilderness areas.

You read that right.

The US Forestry service wants people to obtain a $1500.00 permit to film or photograph in a designated wilderness area.

According to the Oregonian:

Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife

advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.

Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.

Wilderness areas are set apart for a variety of reasons, but there are massive regulations on their use and maintaining the “pristine” nature of the area. They are designed so Americans can enjoy the beauty of the area as well as allow diverse wildlife in a natural environment.

What it is not designed to do is to not allow Americans the joy of seeing such land. Wilderness areas are not the private playgrounds of government officials seeking to expand their authority.

Allow us to demonstrate the expanse of that authority.
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A Sticker Shocker.

(image courtesy of kait8.com.)

(image courtesy of kait8.com.)

On September 13, 2014 we posted about memorial stickers on the helmets of football players for the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

To honor two team members that had died in the past year, the team leadership council designed the stickers which comprised a cross and the initials of the two teammates. Current team members could voluntarily choose to wear the stickers on their helmets or not.

After Arkansas State played the University of Tennessee in a nationally televised game, the school received a complaint from a lawyer saying that the stickers amounted to a violation of the First Amendment as the stickers were promoting a certain religion.

The school gave in and had the stickers removed.

One team member did not give in as easily as the school did. He contacted the Liberty Institute, a group that “is the largest legal organization dedicated solely to defending and restoring religious liberty in America.”

Liberty Institute sent the school a letter reminding the school that the football players had First Amendment rights as well and that the school could not restrict student initiated speech when it comes to religion:
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Of Candy Canes And Football Helmets.

Candy-Cane-Holly-ROHLast December, first grade student Isaiah Martinez took candy canes to give as gifts to his classmates at Merced Elementary in the West Covina Unified School District (CA).

Isaiah seems to have been fascinated by the “legend of the candy cane” and printed a card that he attached to each candy cane. The card read:

A candy maker wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the CHRISTmas Candy Cane to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White, to symbolize the Virgin Birth, the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the church, and firmness of the promises of God.

The candy maker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our savior. It also represents the staff of the “Good Shepherd” with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

The candy maker stained it with red stripes. He used the three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Jesus on the Cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life, if only we put our faith and trust in Him.

Unfortunately, the candy became known as a Candy Cane — a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. But the meaning is still there for those who “have eyes to see and ears to hear”.

I pray that this symbol will again be used to witness to the Wonder of Jesus and His Great Love that came down at Christmas and remains the ultimate and dominant force in the universe today.

When Isaiah turned in his candy canes for the Christmas party, his teacher noticed the card attached to the candy canes. The teacher took possession of the candy canes and proceeded to confer with the school principal.

Advocates for Faith & Freedom,” a group who represents Isaiah and his family, describes what happened next:

On approximately December 18, 2013 [Isaiah’s teacher] Ms. Lu spoke to [school principal] Mr. Pfitzer who instructed Ms. Lu that Isaiah was not permitted to distribute his Christmas gift because it contained a religious message. Ms. Lu then spoke to Isaiah and told him that “Jesus is not allowed at school.” In fear that he was in some sort of trouble, Isaiah then watched as Ms. Lu proceeded to rip the candy cane legend off of each candy cane and then throw the Christian messages back in to the box. He then watched as the box and messages were thrown into the trash by Ms. Lu. She then told Isaiah that he could distribute the candy canes now that the Christian messages were eliminated. (emphasis ours)

Isaiah’s 21 year old sister talked with her brother and then got involved.
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Words That We’d Never Thought Would Go Together: “Bacon” and “First Amendment.”

(Courtesy Facebook)

(Courtesy Facebook)

The back story: The town of Winooski, Vermont has a program where businesses can sponsor sidewalks, roads, traffic circles, etc to make the town look nicer. A restaurant named “Sneakers Bistro” decided to sponsor a little turn median, placing mulch and flowers in the area. In addition, the restaurant put up a sign that said “YIELD FOR SNEAKERS BISTRO BACON.”

(The sign makes no sense to us, but it’s their sign.)

The sign was installed in June but in August, a Muslim resident of Winooski contacted the restaurant saying the reference to bacon was “offensive to those who do not consume pork.”

The sign was removed by the restaurant.

We are here to serve people breakfast, not politics,” the owners wrote on their Facebook page Saturday. “We removed the sign that was located on public property as a gesture of respect for our diverse community.”

The owners also cited safety concerns:

We are here to serve people BREAKFAST, not politics. We removed the sign that was located on public property as a gesture of respect for our diverse community. There were also concerns raised about safety. Removing it was not a difficult decision. We still love bacon. We still love eggs. Please have the political conversation elsewhere.”

Upon the decision to remove the sign, the proverbial flying pig hit the fan.

People started to call for a boycott of the restaurant saying the decision to remove the sign was “un-American,” “political correctness gone wild,” “caving to Muslims,” and a host of other things. After the restaurant closed their Facebook account, reviewers on Yelp took the restaurant to task.

Even the City Manager weighed in on the issue:
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Bloggers And First Amendment Fans Rejoice.

Lady-Justice-Wood-Sword-ROHCrystal Cox is a blogger who wrote about the Obsidian Finance Group and their practices. She was not very flattering in her descriptions of the company and its principle owner. Obsidian sued Cox.

On January 14, 2011, Obsidian Finance Group, LLC, and Obsidian Senior Principal Kevin Padrick filed a defamation suit in Oregon federal court against blogger Crystal Cox. The complaint alleged that Cox had written a number of false and defamatory statements on her website, obsidianfincancesucks.com, and on “other websites.” The statements quoted in the complaint involve “tax fraud,” “fraud against the government,” “hir[ing] a hitman,” and other statements.

As the case wound through the Courts, a district court eventually decided that as a blogger, Cox did not warrant the First Amendment protections of a journalist.

Law professor Eugene Volokh and others signed onto to represent Cox.

On January 17, 2013 the Ninth Circuit Court issued its decision giving Cox the same protection as a journalist. Interestingly enough, the decision was based in part on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The Court wrote, in part:

The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story. As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable: “With the advent of the Internet and the decline of print and broadcast media … the line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.” Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 352. In defamation cases, the public-figure status of a plaintiff and the public importance of the statement at issue — not the identity of the speaker — provide the First Amendment touchstones.

Bloggers all over the US are rejoicing as are we.

The decision is short, so we are including it below the fold.
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