August 25th, 2011 by Hasham
2011 Freedom Of Speech court cases
The LDS decided to get a member convicted of polygamy and appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court. George Reynolds was a perfect candidate for this test case. Reynolds may believe whatever he wishes about the importance of polygamy, but that did not mean he could necessarily act upon that belief. Marriage, according to this reading, is the base of the entire society. From the marriage comes every other social relationship and institution, all the way up to the government.
On 6 October 2010 the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in the high profile free speech case of Snyder v Phelps. The case concerns Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for protesting at military funerals with its “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” signs. The claim, by the family of a soldier who died in Iraq, is for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion and conspiracy. It was successful at first instance but failed in the Court of Appeals. It is now possible to listen to audio of the oral argument in the Court. In addition, a transcript of the hearing is available. The ScotUS Blog has its usual comprehensive coverage of this case which can be found here.
US freedom of speech campaigners strongly support the rights of Fred Phelps to “offensive speech”. For example, the ACLU blog of rights has a post under the title “Why Fred Phelps’ Speech Rights should matters to us all.” We have previously mentioned the fact that The Volokh Conspiracy blog has an interesting thread on the case
In International Dairy Foods Association v. Boggs, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Ohio’s regulations barring dairy processors from labeling milk as “rbST-Free,” but upheld the agency’s ability to require disclaimers for some rbST-related product claims, subject to First Amendment constraints. There is a post on The Volokh Conspiracy Blog.
An interesting abuse of freedom of speech is drawn to our attention by “The Blog Law blog”. This is a website called TheDirty.com, a gossip blog that targets ordinary, non-celebrity people who have had th
The Supreme Court has defined some categories of speech as unprotected, such as fighting words or incitement, because the value of free speech is superseded by a compelling public interest in preventing violence.
Hate speech, however, despite its possible potential to inflict deep offense or psychological damage, remains a protected domain of speech. Skokie, R. A. V, and Virginia all uphold the protected nature of hate speech.
Free Speech and Racism: National Socialist Party v. Skokie
In the late 1970s, American Nazis threatened to march in Skokie, Illinois, a community with many Holocaust survivors. Skokie, aiming to prevent the Nazis from legally marching, passed several ordinances which ultimately were overturned in National Socialist Party v. Skokie (1977).
The Supreme Court revisited hate speech in R. A. V. v. City of St. Paul (1992), striking down St. Paul’s Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance, which criminalized any symbol or illustration that “arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender.”
A teenager had been convicted of this offense after burning a homemade cross on the lawn of his African-American neighbors. Justice Scalia, writing the majority opinion, notes that “the First Amendment generally prevents government from proscribing speech, or even expressive conduct, because of disapproval of the ideas expressed.”
Read This Next
* Understanding Freedom of Assembly
* Mill and Free Speech – The Marketplace of Ideas
* Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
This case emphasizes a rejection of content discrimination: “the First Amendment does not permit St. Paul to impose special prohibitions on those speakers who express views on disfavored subjects.” This is a clear defense of the marketplace of ideas.
Dissenters explicitly rejected this philosophy, contending that in “characterizing fighting words as a form of ‘debate’, the majority legitimates hate speech as a form of public discussion.”
Good news Religion Nerd readers! Christa Lasher of Georgia State University has joined RN as a guest blogger. Christa will be keeping us up to date on U.S. Supreme Court cases involving 1st amendment issues and will be contributing articles on various traditions she has studied throughout her academic career. Welcome Christa! For more information see Christa’s bio at Guest Blogger.
By: Christa Lasher
On Monday, April 19th, the Supreme Court will be hearing Christian Legal Society Chapter v. Martinez. Here are the facts of the case: The University of California Hastings College of Law has a nondiscrimination policy which states:
The College is committed to a policy against legally impermissible, arbitrary or unreasonable discriminatory practices. All groups, including administration, faculty, student governments, College-owned student residence facilities and programs sponsored by the College, are governed by this policy of nondiscrimination. The College’s policy on nondiscrimination is to comply fully with applicable law.
The University of California, Hastings College of the Law shall not discriminate unlawfully on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation. This nondiscrimination policy covers admissions, access and treatment in Hastings sponsored programs and activities.
If a student organization is to receive funds and be recognized as an official student organization at Hastings College, they must follow this nondiscrimination policy… Something that Christian Legal Society refuses to do. Christian Legal Society is, as might be obvious from the name, a Christian group. Its bylaws require voting members and officers to adhere to its Statement of Faith. This Statement of Faith would act as a violation of the nondiscrimination policy on the basis of religion and sexual orientation. SLC asked for an exemption from the policy, and Hastings denied that request. CLS filed a lawsuit in October, 2004 and late last year, the Supreme Court granted certiorari (agreed to hear the case).
CLS is arguing that in denying the exemption, Hastings is violating their right of expressive association and is discriminating based upon viewpoint. These are First Amendment issues. Free Speech, Free Exercise, and the Establishment Clause are all implicated in this case. The question before the Court, then, is whether Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion allow an organization to be exempted from non-discrimination policies.
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