First Amendment Roundup: School vouchers, religious expression in schools, and the right to protest
It's been an interesting week, to say the least, what with the Obama Justice Department announcing they will not defend DOMA, and the ACLU joining with other groups to ask that California resume marrying gay couples and Walmart stop treating female employees so badly. Here's our run-down of some lesser-known first amendment stories you may have missed.
- The biggest news, of course, is that the Supreme Court agreed with the ACLU's position and ruled 8-1 that the Constitution protects the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to public protest, even funerals. This has been a hotly contested position, naturally, but the ACLU has always defended the right of every person to free speech, even when we absolutely detest their message.
- In a somewhat similar case, the 7th Circuit upheld a district court ruling that a teenager's "Be Happy, Not Gay" t-shirt, worn to school on the National Day of Silence in 2006, was protected by the First Amendment. Said the court, "People in our society do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or their way of life."
- Closer to home, the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee approved a School Vouchers Bill that would clearly violate the Federal and Pennsylvania Constitutions by funneling tax money into private and parochial schools, despite strong objections from the ACLU and other groups.
- Students at Floyd County High School in West Virginia protested the removal of framed copies of the Ten Commandments from their school by displaying the Ten Commandments on their lockers, a terrific display of the difference between school endorsement of religion and student expression of religion that the ACLU was quick to defend.
- Senator Al Franken calls Net Neutrality "the First Amendment issue of our time" in an interview with Ars Technica, and addresses his support of a bill that would censor web sites over concerns about piracy and copyright infringement.