Friday First Amendment Roundup: Interrupting the Constitution, Shielding Against Whistleblowers, and the Soledad Cross
Big week for civil liberties this week, with new lawmakers (and new House majorities) both in Harrisburg and in Washington. PA State Representative Darryl Metcalfe is starting hard out of the gate, with an anti-baby bill and an anti-gay Constitutional amendment in his eager little hands. As we always remind you, though, challenges to civil liberties come in all shapes and sizes. Here's a quick review of what you may have missed this week.
- First and most exciting: in case you missed it, it's legal again to swear in Pennsylvania. Don't say we never did anything for you.
- The House of Representatives opened their new session with its first-ever reading of the U.S. Constitution, which opened the opportunity for a birther to give us the first-ever heckling of the House as they read the Constitution.
- Not to be outdone, protesters several times interrupted the press conference by Darryl Metcalfe and his colleagues announcing their multi-state anti-baby bill. Note the woman 46 seconds into the video urging the protesters to "respect [the speaker's] freedom of speech and sit down."
- The ACLU welcomed the new congress with polite urging to uphold and protect the rights and values enshrined in the Constitution.
- It's hard to say whether House members had a chance to read their nice letter from the ACLU before proposing the "Shield Bill," which would make it a crime to knowingly and willfully disseminate any information "concerning the human intelligence activities of the United States." Aimed at whistle-blowers and organizations like WikiLeaks, there are also very serious questions about its potential limitations on journalists. As an aside, the last time Congress passed a "Shield Bill," it was intended to shield journalists against retaliatory prosecution.
- A Federal judge in Rhode Island ruled against the Rhode Island ACLU's argument that the city of Narragansett's "Orange Sticker Law," aimed at curtailing loud college parties by quite literally labeling houses police consider a problem, is unconstitutional.
- The Ninth Circuit, meanwhile, ruled that the "Soledad Cross" is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, and sent the case back to a federal court to determine whether the cross may be modified to pass muster, or must be removed altogether.