First Amendment Friday: 4.16.2014


This is a feature I started in my time working for the ACLU, that seems worth continuing here. It’s a roundup of news stories about First Amendment rights, not only from the United States but other parts of the world where such rights may not be guaranteed. As with any roundup of news stories, please consider the integrity of the linked source–I try not to link articles that feel bogus, but sometimes stories slip through.



  • The U.S. Supreme Court will consider an Ohio case that could make it illegal to lie in a political campaign. At least two Justices, by the way, have previously indicated their belief that the First Amendment does not protect “factually untrue statements.”
  • A bipartisan group of Congressional Representatives has sent a letter criticizing the Air Force for unconstitutional violations of religious freedom and urging them to revise regulations.
  • The Hugh Hefner Foundation has announced the 2014 winners of their First Amendment Awards, including Glenn Greenwald, Mary Beth Tinker, and a lifetime achievement award for NYU Professor Norman Dorsen. The Foundation has presented their First Amendment Award since Playboy magazine’s 25th anniversary in 1979.
  • The Virginia Supreme Court will weigh in on whether business owners may sue Yelp reviewers for libel.
  • First Amendment Zones,” often-controversial restrictions on the time and place of public protest, met new criticism at the Nevada Cattle Ranch standoff. Their ensuing removal received praise from the ACLU.

  • Virginia, meanwhile, has outlawed such restrictions at public institutions within their state.
  • Thousands of protesters, some waving Ukrainian flags, took to the streets of Moscow to demand free speech and a Russian media free of state control.
  • A California judge ruled that a public-school teacher violated her students’ right to religious freedom when she stopped them from distributing plastic coins engraved with John 3:16 to their fellow students.
  • A federal judge, meanwhile, ruled it’s a Constitutional right for search engines to filter their results–including Baidu’s right to filter U.S. searches in accordance with Chinese government censorship.
  • The Freedom from Religion Foundation says the culture of religion in the football program at Clemson University (a public college) goes too far and violates Constitutional separation of church and state.
  • An odd suit in California, in which actor Jason Patric claims First Amendment defense against the mother of a son he fathered in vitro. The child’s mother is seeking a restraining order preventing Patric from mentioning the child for commercial purposes without her permission.
  • After Mississippi passed its anti-gay “religious freedom” law, businesses in the state are motivated to promote the fact they won’t discriminate. [Link is to the Advocate, may be NSFW depending on your employer.]
  • A new iPhone app helps Catholics and priests worldwide easily transport breviaries, including versions in Arabic, but may run afoul of legal bans against Catholic breviaries in some Muslim countries.
  • An Oregon court has rules that flashing your headlights to warn fellow motorists of police stops is protected free speech.
  • In Minnesota, meanwhile, a court says encouraging others to commit suicide is protected by the First Amendment, though assisting in another’s suicide is still illegal.
  • A new IRS rule opposed by tea party groups and the ACLU (among others) for limiting free speech is slated for revision.



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