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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.
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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.
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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.
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Cocoa Beach: A Peek At The Presentation.

Last week, we sent our mouthpiece to the Cocoa Beach Commission meeting to comment and make a presentation on the speech issue that had occurred in several meetings.

Several things happened, none of which were very good.

First, our representative had been told previously that his time to talk at the podium would begin when he began to speak. As he had to bring up the PowerPoint presentation onto the screen so everyone could see it, it does not seem right to penalize a speaker for having to open a file and have it appear on the main screen. Yet that is what happened. His time began when he got up to the microphone, not when he started talking.

That came into play as we as a group had practiced what he was going to say. We timed it. We had his presentation down consistently to be between 2:50 and 2:54. Without fail, that is what he was running. When the buzzer went off way before the end of the presentation, he was perplexed and thought he had blown it. It was not until someone from the audience said the Commission had started the timer early that he realized he had not messed up the timing at all.

For every speaker following him, the timer started AFTER the speaker began speaking.

We thought you’d like to see what the presentation was so here it is. We have added the PowerPoint slides in the correct positions. What we do and what he did was read the section and then click to change the slide without looking. We can’t reproduce that on a blog, but you can see what was said and the slides.

You may be wondering who “Ring Lardner” was and why the reference to him.
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THIS Is Why We Get Riled Up About Free Speech.

There are some times when we get people who write or ask us “why are you so concerned with free speech? It’s not like anything is going to happen that can take it away.”

The Cocoa Beach City Commission notwithstanding, here are two really odd cases where people’s rights were attacked and violated under the color of the law.

The first is out of Washington County, Georgia and comes to us via Popehot.com.

Anne King and her ex-husband had a dispute over medicine for their children. Specifically, while Anne King was home taking care of the kids, she asked her husband to pick up some medicine for them. When the husband refused saying he was too busy, Mrs. King posted this on Facebook:

A friend of Mrs. King, Susan Hines, “liked” the post and responded with “POS — give me an hour and check your mailbox. I’ll be GLAD to pick up the slack.

Perfectly normal comments in today’s society, right?

Unfortunately for Mrs. King, the former Mr. King is Captain Corey King of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.

Corey King saw the post and the “like” by Hines and apparently decided he didn’t like the way he was being talked about so he had his friend Washington County Sheriff’s Investigator Trey Burgamy take a complaint and file charges against Mrs. King and her friend for “criminal defamation.” Mrs. King and Hines were arrested and taken before local magistrate Ralph O. Todd (who is an elected official and not a lawyer.)

Ken White at Popehat.com describes what happened next:
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Revere High School – Doublethink Appears Again.

Revere-High-Pom-Pom-Boots-ROH
A senior and captain of the cheerleading team named Caley Godino at Revere High in Massachusetts was suspended from all social activities for the rest of the year after she sent out a tweet on voting.

The situation arose, Godino said, on Nov. 4, the day after the City Election.

She was on a field trip outside the school building when she and other students got a Tweet from her Civics teacher. The Tweet was to spur thought about the low voter turnout in the City Election – saying only 10 percent of Revere ended up voting, and what the students thought about that. (Turnout was actually about 41 percent in the last City Election, rather than 10 percent).

Godino Tweeted back, “10 percent of Revere voted because the others are not legal.”

Godino said it wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. School officials have said they don’t believe she had any ill intentions, either.

However, the Tweet took off and people began to send messages back saying it wasn’t right. She immediately realized she had probably made a mistake, and deleted the Tweet.

The school was not happy with the tweet. Neither were some of the students who threatened Godino.

One person said they were going to wait for the bus to come back to the field trip; some soccer players said they were going to get their [slur deleted] crew and come for her; others said slurs about white people in Spanish and English.

“Reverse racism is not real,” read one Tweet.

“Is it possible to be racist to a white person?” read another.

The school initially said Godino’s speech was protected by the First Amendment, but the next day reversed course and told Godino she was suspended from all social activities at the school for the remainder of the year. That meant no more cheerleading, no dances, no prom, no Senior Night, no anything.

It is here that the doublethink we talked about yesterday comes into play.
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“Reason”-able, Anonymous, Free Speech.

Reason-and-DOJ-ROH

Once in awhile, we get some flack from people who say that we should not write using pseudonyms or allow anonymous comments. There are generally two reasons we allow such postings. The first is that we don’t care too much who says what as we would rather deal with the ideas that are presented rather than who said them. People who demand to know who said something want to engage in the lame and ridiculous act of making ad hominem attacks. Instead of dealing with what is presented, people want to “attack the man” to somehow try to attempt discredit the writer.

Our second reason is a respectable concern as to what those who are being criticized will do, especially when those people work for the government.

For the past few weeks, the internet has been abuzz with talk of a subpoena issued to reason.com to uncover the names, emails and IP’s of those who made comments on the reason.com site. The reason the buzz was just “talk” was because it was rumored that not only had the government sought to stifle free and protected speech, they sought to make it illegal to disclose their actions.

The incident started with an article on reason.com concerning the sentencing of Ross Ulbricht.

On May 31, Nick Gillespie published a post at Reason.com’s Hit & Run blog discussing Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht’s “haunting sentencing letter” to District Court Judge Katherine Forrest, and the judge’s harsh response. Gillespie noted that Forrest “more than threw the book” at Ulbricht by giving him a life sentence, which was a punishment “beyond even what prosecutors…asked for.”

In the comments section of the post, six readers published reactions that drew the investigative ire of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In a federal grand jury subpoena dated June 2, the U.S. District Court commanded Reason.com to turn over “any and all identifying information” we had about the individuals posting those comments.

The six comments are:
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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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