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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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Two Different Instances Of Free Speech.

Papal-Symbol-on-Paper-ROH Carnegie Mellon University is embroiled in somewhat of a controversy after three students were arrested and charged after the university’s annual College of Fine Arts’ Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby on Carnival Weekend.

The president of Carnegie Mellon University says charges have been filed in connection with an incident in which a female student dressed up as the pope, and was naked from the waist down, with a her pubic hair shaved in the shape of a cross.

……..

After a two-week review, Carnegie Mellon police have charged 19-year-old art student, Katherine O’Connor with indecent exposure.

22-year-old Robb Godshaw was also charged with public nudity, along with another student who says he’s friends with both.

The students are claiming “freedom of expression,” to which we wonder “what idea were the students expressing?”

To his credit, the President of the university Dr. Jared L. Cohon seems to understand what has happened and why they students were charged.

He says in a statement:

The students took part in a campus art event and, in the case of the student who portrayed herself as the Pope, made an artistic statement which proved to be controversial. While I recognize that many found the students’ activities deeply offensive, the university upholds their right to create works of art and express their ideas. But, public nudity is a violation of the law and subject to appropriate action.

From this statement, it seems that President Cohon recognizes there is no right to not be offended by someone else’s speech or expression. Just because someone is offended doesn’t mean the person with the idea has to shut up.

Yet in this case, the expression ran afoul of the law. Once again, from Cohon’s statement:
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Lamb’s Chapel, The First Amendment and Satellite Beach.

Lambs-Chapel-First-Amendment-ROHOne of the issues the City Council of Satellite Beach took up during their last meeting on February 6, 2013, was “Resolution 924” which:

Establish(s) policies and fee schedule for use of Satellite Beach facilities.

The Council identified issues with the proposed fee schedule and sent the issue back to the Recreation Board for more study and review. However, while fees for use of facilities will not change, there is underlying issue that remains.

We want to address that issue here.

Several sections of proposed Resolution 924 dealing with the administration of the fees were “brought forward” from the current City code. Included is “Section 33” which reads:

Section 33 Permission to use the facilities for denominational and non-denominations religious services or for “Sunday School will be denied, but church-affiliated groups may reserve the facilities for social or recreational purposes.

A government denying use of a facility based on the religious content speech has been deemed un-Constitutional by the Supreme Court.

The case the Court ruled upon is the case Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District.

Lamb’s Chapel, an evangelical church, applied to the local school board for use of under the school board’s policy of letting outside groups rent facilities after school hours. Other groups had rented the school for such things as “civic, social and educational” events. The School Board had established rules which stated:

The rules allow only 2 of the 10 purposes authorized by § 414: social, civic, or recreational uses (Rule 10) and use by political organizations if secured in compliance with § 414 (Rule 8). Rule 7, however, consistent with the judicial interpretation of state law, provides that “[t]he school premises shall not be used by any group for religious purposes.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 57a.

(Please note how the “religious purposes” denial follows closely to that of Satellite Beach’s Section 33.)

Lamb’s Chapel’s made two applications to the school board stating the group wanted to show an educational series of films from the James Dobson led group “Focus on the Family.”

The School Board denied each application:
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Fairfax County Church Sues County Government Over Sign.

As many people know, we are very interested in protecting the free speech of people here in the US. Even seemingly “innocent” restrictions are often an affront to the First Amendment. It is our belief even those small restrictions must be vigorously opposed lest the government start approving what we can an cannot say.

Which brings us to a church in Fairfax County, Virginia.

The Church of the Good Shepherd-United Methodist in Vienna, Virginia has decided to sue the Fairfax County Government over a the operation of a $37,000 sign the church installed.

The sign is an electronic sign that changes messages and the church was cited by code enforcement of the county. According to the Washington Examiner:

The complaint stems from a ruling by a county zoning official that said the Church of the Good Shepherd-United Methodist’s newly erected, $37,000 sign was in violation of an ordinance that allows “any movable copy sign … to change messages a maximum of two times within a 24-hour period.”

A letter to the church cited three messages that occurred in a one-day period: “WELCOME, Come on in and beat the heat…,” “Also visit us at goodshepherdva.com” and “Practicing the Presence Thurs., July 5, 1 p.m.”

Consequently, a second code violation was also cited, saying that because the sign changes messages three times, it was not permitted in the county.

We have seen restrictions like this based on the idea of that signs that change messages are a “distraction” to drivers. There are no studies of which we are aware that prove that to be a fact, yet governments try to use that rational to restrict the speech on signs. In fact, because the Fairfax County ordinance allows for day, date, time, and weather to be displayed and changed repeatedly, one has to wonder if it is not the content of the wording on the sign rather than the number of times the messages change.

So what is the solution? We believe that people generally may not want signs that flash, change messages and have animation in front of every business. We can be persuaded that it is “ugly” or “unsightly.”
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