‘This case is about crushing dissent. In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist’
Kelsey Harkness reports: An appellate court unanimously ruled against Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington florist who declined to make flower arrangements for a same-sex couple’s wedding because of her religious beliefs.
“It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees.”
At National Review, David French writes:
…But this is the sexual revolution we’re talking about, so it’s necessary for the court to make a statement declaring the government’s allegiances. Indeed, late in the opinion its author gave the game away. Picking up on the absurd and historically ignorant comparison of the modern gay-rights movement with the civil-rights movement in the segregationist South, the judge wrote, “This case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.”
“That’s it right there: the state religion. It reserves for itself the exclusive ability to name, define, and eradicate “social evils,” and heaven help the individual citizen who disagrees. There is no need to show a traditional, legally recognized harm.”
What are they talking about? The federal government took the extraordinary step of passing the civil-rights acts to give black Americans access not just to sandwiches but to hotel rooms, jobs, voting rights, and all the other things they were systematically denied as southern states and communities continually and oppressively imposed the “badges and incidents of slavery” on them. In the pre-civil-rights South, black citizens often had trouble finding places to eat or sleep. They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t get justice in state courts. Civil rights was about access, at its most elementary and necessary level.
But that’s not the case any longer. The gay couple in this case had no trouble finding flowers. Stutzman even recommended other florists who would have been happy to help them celebrate their wedding. So, given the absence of any real harm, the court said that the state had a compelling state interest in punishing the “independent social evil” of discrimination toward a “broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace.”
That’s it right there: the state religion. It reserves for itself the exclusive ability to name, define, and eradicate “social evils,” and heaven help the individual citizen who disagrees. There is no need to show a traditional, legally recognized harm. There is no need to prove lack of access to alternative artistic expressions. There is only the need to show that the business owner won’t use her unique talents to help celebrate the sexual revolution.
Finally, if you doubt the court’s malice, look only to its last ruling — that Stutzman can be held personally liable for her allegedly discriminatory act. In other words, the court is willing to pierce the corporate veil to impose individual liability even in the absence of the traditional justifications for that drastic step. Stutzman didn’t commit fraud. She didn’t commingle her personal and corporate funds. She kept her private and professional affairs separate. But she still faces personal financial ruin.
Social-justice warriors will no doubt celebrate the breaking of another egg for their cultural omelet. … (read more)
The ruling, issued on Thursday by Washington’s nine Supreme Court justices, stated that in refusing to provide services for the same-sex couple’s wedding, Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.
“The state of Washington bars discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” the ruling reads.
“We therefore hold that the conduct for which Stutzman was cited and fined in this case—refusing her commercially marketed wedding floral services to [Robert] Ingersoll and [Curt] Freed because theirs would be a same-sex wedding—constitutes sexual orientation discrimination under the [Washington Law Against Discrimination].” Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Barone writes: The knee jerk response of many liberals to political attacks seems to be to suppress such speech. Examples abound. Michigan Rep. Gary Peters, running for the Senate, threatens the broadcast licenses of stations that run adscriticizing him. Over at salon.com Fred Jerome imagines what it would be like to nationalize — have the government take over — Fox News. And of course evidence continues to accumulate that high Internal Revenue Service officials denied approval to conservative groups in order to suppress political speech.
Then there’s the Federal Communications Commission‘s “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs”–put on hold Friday. The FCC was going to query TV station and newspaper
writers about their “coverage choices.” As my Washington Examiner colleague Byron York explains, this “study” was the project of Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, daughter of Rep. James Clyburn, and it was scheduled to be rolled out first in Columbia, S.C. — which just happens to be the Clyburns’ hometown. Read the rest of this entry »
Dianne Feinstein Horrified After New Gun Control Bill Disintegrates Immediately Upon Crossing Into Senate ChamberPosted: June 20, 2016
WASHINGTON—Staring down in shock at her empty hands where the piece of legislation had been only seconds earlier, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was reportedly left horrified Monday after her gun control bill disintegrated immediately upon crossing into the Senate chamber.
“I was just walking in from my office holding the bill like this, and as soon as I stepped through the doorway, it just crumbled to nothing,” said an alarmed Feinstein…(read more)
BOSTON—Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus…(read more)
Melissa Click confronted a student photographer and a student videographer during the protests, calling for ‘muscle’ to help remove the videographer, Mark Schierbecker, from the protest area. Schierbecker’s video of his run-in with Clink went viral, and he filed a complaint with university police.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jim Suhr reports: A University of Missouri assistant communications professor was charged Monday with misdemeanor assault linked to her run-in with student journalists during campus protests last November, drawing a curator’s renewed calls for her ouster.
“I’m willing to listen to the possibility of other job actions involving her as long as they’re serious. The whole situation surrounding this has been stonewalling and an attempt to run out the clock by the university.”
— Board member, David Steelman
Melissa Click, 45, faces up to 15 days in jail if convicted of the charge filed by Columbia city prosecutor Steve Richey, who retires next month and did not return messages seeking comment Monday.
Click confronted a student photographer and a student videographer during the protests, calling for “muscle” to help remove the videographer, Mark Schierbecker, from the protest area. Schierbecker’s video of his run-in with Clink went viral, and he filed a complaint with university police.
That day’s demonstrations came after the president of the four-campus University of Missouri system and the Columbia campus’ chancellor resigned amid protests over what some saw as indifference to racial issues.
Days after the confrontations, Click said publicly she regretted her actions, and that she apologized to Schierbecker and all journalists and the university community for detracting from the students’ efforts to improve the racial climate on the Columbia campus. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Barone writes: “‘Shut up,’ he explained.” Those words are from Ring Lardner‘s short story “The Young Immigrunts.” They’re an exasperated father’s response from the driver’s seat to his child’s question, “‘Are you lost, Daddy?’ I asked tenderly.”
They also can be taken as the emblematic response of today’s liberals to anyone questioning their certitudes. A response that at least sometimes represents the uneasy apprehension of the father in the story that they have no good answer.
“We are told that speech codes are necessary because some students may be offended by what others say. In recent years we have been warned that seemingly innocuous phrases may be ‘microaggressions’ that must be stamped out and that “trigger warnings” should be administered to warn students of possibly upsetting material.”
It was not always so. Today’s liberals, like those of Lardner’s day, pride themselves on their critical minds, their openness to new and unfamiliar ideas, their tolerance of diversity and differences. But often that characterization seems as defunct as Lardner, who died at an unhappily early age in 1935.
“Beyond the campus, liberals are also eager to restrict free speech. This is apparent in some responses to those who argue that global warming may not be as inevitable and harmful as most liberals believe, and that while increased carbon emissions would surely raise temperatures if they were the only factor affecting climate, some other factors just might be involved.”
Consider the proliferation of speech codes at our colleges and universities. The website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sets out the speech codes at 400 of the nation’s largest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning. The liberals who run these institutions — you won’t find many non-liberals among their faculties and administrations — have decided to limit their students’ First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Read the rest of this entry »
Border Patrol Retaliates Against James O’Keefe after Osama bin Laden Exposé; O’Keefe Fights Back and Releases Recording of Unconstitutional Detentions. Hidden Recording Device Reveals Border Patrol Grilling a Detained O’Keefe on Numerous Inappropriate Topics Including Trade Secrets, Financial Issues and Presidential Politics, Specifically Donald Trump…
More – NRO has this item
[VIDEO] REWIND 2011: Andrew Breitbart: Illiberal Democrat Collectivism Vilifies Individualism, Independence, Part 2Posted: May 24, 2015
http://democracybroadcasting.com Hollywood blacklisting silences dissent against Obama. Filmed at BlogWorld NYC June, 2011.
THE HORROR: Majority of Democrats–and an Increasing Percentage of Republicans–Support Criminalizing Free SpeechPosted: May 22, 2015
John Sexton reports: A new poll shows that a majority of Democrats want to limit free speech with laws that would prohibit so-called “hate speech.”
A clear example of this desire to limit speech can be found in the New York Times editorial board’s reaction to the attack in Garland. In a piece titled, “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech,” the Times criticizes Pam Geller, the organizer of the cartoon contest and the intended victim of the attack. Speaking of Geller, the Times wrote, “she achieved her provocative goal in Garland — the event was attacked by two Muslims.”
The Times goes on to argue that no amount of violence—not the Charlie Hebdo attacks, not the theatrical brutality of ISIS, not even 9/11—can justify “provocations” (i.e. cartoons) of Islam. This is the severely limited view of the 1st amendment the left-leaning NYT has already embraced.
In contrast, the opposing view, held by most Republicans and independents according to this YouGov poll, is probably best exemplified by a piece Eugene Volokh published at the Washington Post:
Eugene Volokh writes:
I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas. One is as free to condemn Islam — or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens — as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialism or Democrats or Republicans….(read more at Washington Post)
The 1st Amendment protects all speech, but there is no doubt the left is increasingly comfortable with limiting this…
Unmentioned in John Sexton‘s analysis however, is that Republicans and Independents, not Democrats, are increasingly warming to the idea of free speech bans, while Democrat support is relatively unchanged. For example:
Democratic support for banning hate speech hasn’t increased at all; on the contrary, Dems are a bit more likely to oppose a ban than they were seven months ago, a rational reaction to the creepy spectacle of western media outlets self-censoring images of Mohammed cartoons after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It’s Republicans and independents who are slowly warming to hate-speech bans. Indie opposition has dropped 12 points, with an increase of eight points in support. GOPers are now 12 points more likely to support hate-speech bans than they were last year.
Allahpundit‘s exit question:
I can understand why progressives would want a legal cudgel to silence their enemies but I can’t understand why conservatives increasingly would. Even if you don’t value free speech enough to abhor that sort of cudgel on principle, surely you understand that the “politically incorrect” will be the main target of prosecutions. Why on earth would you enable this?
…Hillary Clinton has said that overturning Citizens United is a priority for her if elected President. Read the rest of this entry »
Peter Berkowitz writes: In October 2009, the Obama White House launched a concerted attack against critical press coverage, one unparalleled since the days of the Nixon White House. In one respect, Barack Obama and Richard Nixon were in agreement: both perceived a distinctly liberal bias in the media. Nixon denounced the press for its leftism, Obama objected to the press’s deviation from it. So Obama and his senior staff singled out for condemnation Fox News, the lone television network that did not serve up the fawning coverage the president and his team had come to expect.
In “The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech,” Kirsten Powers recounts that in the space of a few days, White House communications director Anita Dunn, her deputy Dan Pfeiffer, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel openly asserted that the administration properly excluded Fox reporters from press briefings because Fox was not a legitimate news organization. When asked for comment by NBC News, President Obama stood behind his team.
Grousing about criticism is only human, and presidential displeasure with the press is nothing new. But wielding the presidential bully pulpit to decree what counts as legitimate news coverage represented an ominous turn in American politics.
“The smearing of opponents of the progressive party line as purveyors of hatred; the denigration of critics of left-liberal public policy as racists, sexists, and homophobes; and the ostracism of advocates of faith, tradition, and the virtues of America’s experiment in self-government as minions of sinister forces—these have become routine features of intellectual life at our leading universities.”
Separation of press and state is as essential to the American constitutional order as separation of church and state. In one respect, religious freedom depends on press freedom: a press that is answerable to, or in the pocket of, the government will be unwilling to report, or incapable of reporting accurately, when government exceeds its lawfully prescribed boundaries.
What could the president and his advisers have been thinking in orchestrating an assault on Fox News? Where could our president, a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School and a former lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, have gotten the idea that it was government’s prerogative to determine who properly reports the news and to supervise the flow of opinion in the country?
Sad to say, they could have been thinking they were faithfully implementing the ideas about the need to regulate speech that they had learned in college. The smearing of opponents of the progressive party line as purveyors of hatred; the denigration of critics of left-liberal public policy as racists, sexists, and homophobes; and the ostracism of advocates of faith, tradition, and the virtues of America’s experiment in self-government as minions of sinister forces—these have become routine features of intellectual life at our leading universities. The development of doctrines designed to curtail nonconforming speech was already well under way by the time Obama attended college in the early1980s and law school in the early 1990s. Read the rest of this entry »
by 尊子 (jun tze) | apple daily @ 3may15
today is world press freedom day
UNENFORCEABLE i594: Washington Gun Owners Stage Mass Civil Disobedience Protest in Defiance of New Background Check LawPosted: December 13, 2014
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Thousands of gun-rights advocates are rallying outside the Capitol to protest a new expanded gun background check law in Washington state.
Saturday’s protest is called the “I Will Not Comply” rally, and those attending say they will openly exchange firearms in opposition to the state’s new voter-approved universal background check law, Initiative 594.
The law, which took effect on Dec. 4, requires background checks on all sales and transfers, including private transactions and many loans and gifts…(AP)
Reason.com‘s J.D. Tuccille reports: Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners chose to become overnight felons rather than comply with that state’s new gun registration law. The defiance spurred the Hartford Courant editorial board to impotently sputter about rounding up the scofflaws.
New York’s similar registration law suffers such low compliance that state officials won’t even reveal how many people have abide by the measure—a desperate secrecy ploy that the New York State Committee on Open Government says thumbs its nose at the law itself.
Now Washington state residents pissed off about i594, a ballot measure inflicting background check requirements on even private transactions, plan an exercise in mass disobedience…
The fellow getting much of the credit for organizing the rally is Gavin Seim, a former (unsuccessful) congressional candidate and passionate conservative. Seim got a lot of buzz last month when he pulled over an unmarked police car and demanded that the officer show identification. Perhaps surprisingly, Seim not only wasn’t ventilated, but the officer complied.
Seim and his allies (the Facebook event page lists Kit Lange Carroll, Sondra Seim, and Anthony P. Bosworth as co-hosts) plan a rally for the Washington State Capitol, in Olympia, on December 13 at 11am PST. That’s nine days after the law goes into effect. So far, almost 6,000 people have indicated their intention to attend and “exchange guns” without going through a background check, in defiance of the new requirements. Read the rest of this entry »
Mr. Rotunda is a law professor at Fowler Law School, Chapman University, the co-author, with John Nowak, of “Treatise on Constitutional Law” (Thomson Reuters, fifth edition, 2013), and a former commissioner of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (2009-13).
Ronald D. Rotunda writes: What Talleyrand once said of French royalty applies to Ann Ravel, the vice chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission: She has “learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Ms. Ravel appears to be dreaming of imposing on the nation what she was unable to impose on California—the regulation of political speech on the Internet.
“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and of the press equally—and the government cannot constitutionally discriminate against some forms of speech in favor of others.”
[Check out Ronald D. Rotunda’s book “Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies, 4th Edition” from Amazon]
In April 2012, when Ms. Ravel was chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (a state agency comparable to the FEC) and I was a commissioner, she announced that the commission would issue regulations governing political speech on the Internet. The rules, she said, would even govern bloggers outside the state. Californians raised a fuss and her efforts got nowhere.
“The Federal Election Commission exists solely to protect the public against potential corruption of public officials. It has no authority to regulate pure political speech, which is what the Web does: It disseminates pure political speech.”
Now she’s back, and in a more powerful position in Washington. The FEC already regulates paid Internet advertising, but free Internet posts are exempt from campaign-finance regulations. On Oct. 24 Ms. Ravel stated that in doing so “the Commission turned a blind eye to the Internet’s growing force in the political arena.” She said that a “re-examination of the Commission’s approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue,” and vowed to hold hearings next year on the matter—a clear hint that the goal is to remove the regulatory exemption for free online political speech. Read the rest of this entry »
IRS’s Harassment of Citizen Groups to Chill Opposition, Protect Incumbent Party, and Influence Presidential Election Outcome Approved by Federal Judge
The IRS notched a major legal victory Thursday after a federal judge dismissed lawsuits brought by more than 40 conservative groups seeking remedies for being singled out in the tea party targeting scandal.
“[T]he Court is satisfied that there is no reasonable expectation that the alleged conduct will recur, as the defendants have not only suspended the conduct, but have also taken remedial measures to ensure that the conduct is not repeated.”
Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia threw out almost all counts brought against the tax-collecting agency in two cases, ruling that both were essentially moot now that the IRS granted the groups their tax-exempt status that had been held up for years
Translation: “They promised not to do it anymore, so it’s okay”
The decisions have major implications for tea party groups suing the IRS over the issue. It appears they have a tough case to make because the IRS, since the controversy broke in 2013, has approved most tea party groups’ applications, which, according to Walton, keeps the court from hearing their cases.
“After the plaintiff initiated this case, its application to the IRS for tax-exempt status was approved by the IRS. The allegedly unconstitutional governmental conduct, which delayed the processing of the plaintiff’s tax exempt application and brought about this litigation, is no longer impacting the plaintiff,” Walton said in his decision to throw out True the Vote’s lawsuit against the IRS.
“The judge, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, also said the groups couldn’t receive monetary relief from individual IRS officials, such as ex-IRS official Lois Lerner, because of the ‘chilling effect’ it would have on tax administration.”
(Chilling political speech of opposition groups is okay, but risking a potential chilling effect on the IRS? No! We can’t have that!)
His reasoning was similar in the second case, where 41 conservative groups banded together to sue the IRS for similar misconduct: “[T]he allegedly unconstitutional governmental conduct … is no longer impacting the plaintiffs. … Counts … are therefore moot.”
The judge, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, also said the groups couldn’t receive monetary relief from individual IRS officials, such as ex-IRS official Lois Lerner, because of the chilling effect it would have on tax administration.
The same judge in August rejected True the Vote’s bid for a court-appointed forensics expert to hunt Lerner’s lost emails, another blow to conservatives seeking outside experts to take the lead on the IRS investigation. Two years’ worth of the former head of the tax-exempt division’s emails were erased in a hard drive crash in 2011, the IRS says. Read the rest of this entry »
More on the Ninth Circuit decision from The Volokh Conspiracy:
Eugene Volokh writes: So holds today’s Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox (9th Cir. Jan. 17, 2014) (in which I represented the defendant). To be precise, the Ninth Circuit concludes that all who speak to the public, whether or not they are members of the institutional press, are equally protected by the First Amendment. To quote the court,
The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story. As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable: “With the advent of the Internet and the decline of print and broadcast media … the line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.” Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 352.
Greg Lukianoff writes: College is where inquisitive minds go to be exposed to new ways of thinking. But on some campuses, the quest for knowledge is frustrated when administrators censor speech they would prefer be kept out of the marketplace of ideas.
To close out the year, we at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) want to highlight some of the worst colleges for free speech since March 2012 — the last time we published this list. (Our first list, from 2011, is here.)
Most of the schools we include in this year’s list are public colleges or universities bound by the First Amendment. But some of them are private colleges that, though not required by the Constitution to respect student and faculty free speech rights, nonetheless promise to do so. (As we said last year, if you’re looking for schools like Brigham Young or Liberty University to appear on this list, you’ll be disappointed. Students who attend those schools know what they’re getting themselves into.) One of the institutions listed isn’t even a college, but still deserves special mentioning for the profound effect it had on campus expression this year.
Of course, a “top 10” list cannot include all the colleges that violated free speech rights over the last nearly two years. Two notable colleges that are not on the list include Modesto Junior College (MJC), where, earlier this year, a student was ordered to stop handing out Constitutions on Constitution Day. It was a huge case and would have made the list if not for a recent decision by the college to dramatically improve its policies. MJC dropped some of the worst features of its original policy and have pledged to adopt a permanent policy change that respects the First Amendment. FIRE is optimistic, but will monitor the situation closely, so stay tuned.
The other college is the University of Kansas (KU), which just announced a highly restrictive social media policy for all staff and professors in the wake of a controversial tweet by a journalism professor. We just wrote to the school and want to give KU the chance to respond and/or reform the policy.
For those interested in learning more about the the fight for student rights, check out my book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. In the book, I highlight even more examples of egregious free speech violations from my 12-year fight for basic liberties at colleges across the country.
The State University of New York College at Oswego
The State University of New York at Oswego (SUNY Oswego) earns its rightful place on this list for nonsensically suspending a student who asked rival hockey coaches for their thoughts about his school’s coach in order to complete a class assignment. Because he simply informed the coaches through email that they did not have to say only positive things about their SUNY Oswego counterpart, student Alex Myers was alleged to “defame, harass, intimidate, or threaten another individual or group.” As a result of the charges, Myers was placed on interim suspension and forced to vacate his campus residence. After intense public pressure from FIRE and media outlets like Gawker, the university eventually dropped Myers’ suspension and allowed him to return to campus—but only after the school sent a destructive message to student journalists about asking tough questions.
In George Orwell’s <em>1984</em>, one of the methods that the government of Oceania used to control its population was constant surveillance. Citizens were afraid to speak their minds because they never knew when they were being monitored by “Big Brother.” If you’re a member of the Harvard University community, you might have that same uneasy feeling after it was revealed earlier this year that the administration violated school policy in covertly accessing 16 residential deans’ email accounts. The search was undertaken to determine the source of a leak to the media about a high-profile cheating scandal on campus. The deans, who also serve as lecturers within the school, weren’t notified that their email accounts were accessed until months after it occurred. As Harvard’s student newspaper The Crimson reports, the effect of the covert search has been a chilling effect on faculty speech. Though an official university investigation into the affair concluded that the search was conducted in “good faith,” the administrator responsible for ordering the search has resigned. The question remains: how safe are Harvard students and faculty from future snooping efforts? (Also: Check out other censorship, free speech, and rights issues at Harvard over the last decade)
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama earns its place on this year’s list through its bureaucratic assault on common sense and the Constitution. In April 2013, the Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice (AASRJ) student group was blocked from mounting a peaceful counter-demonstration to a Bama Students for Life “Genocide Awareness Project” display that featured graphic abortion-related images. When AASRJ students tried to hand out their materials near the display, they were told by a police officer that without a grounds use permit, they could face arrest. Why not get the permit? For one, Alabama’s grounds use policy requires applicants to apply for a permit 10 working days in advance. This put groups like AASRJ—which had less than 24 hours to plan its counter-demonstration—out of luck. But that’s almost beside the point: It’s absurd that students at any public university should ever have to request permission from their colleges to exercise basic free speech rights, like handing out literature in the campus’ public spaces. Although Alabama slightly revised its policy in response to pressure from FIRE, concerns still remain. Administrators still enjoy far too much discretion in approving permit requests, and the fact remains that spontaneous events—a common feature of college life—are still unduly restricted Read the rest of this entry »
FIRST AMENDMENT CENTER NASHVILLE, TENN.
WASHINGTON — In a survey released today by the Newseum Institute, 34% of Americans say the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees, up from 13% in last year’s survey. This is the largest single-year increase in the history of the State of the First Amendment national survey.
The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center-sponsored survey has been conducted since 1997 to determine public knowledge and opinion about the First Amendment and related issues. The results were released today by First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson and Newseum Institute Chief Operating Officer Gene Policinski at a luncheon for high school students attending the 2013 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference.
“It’s unsettling to see a third of Americans view the First Amendment as providing too much liberty,” said Paulson, who also is the dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. “This underscores the need for more First Amendment education. If we truly understand the essential role of these freedoms in a democracy, we’re more likely to protect them,” Paulson said.
On other issues, the survey found:
- Americans identified freedom of speech as the most important freedom that citizens enjoy (47%), followed by freedom of religion (10%), freedom of choice (7%), and the right to vote and the right to bear arms (both 5%).
- 80% agreed it is important for our democracy that the news media act as an independent “watchdog” over government on behalf of the public, up 5 percentage points from 2012; 46% believe that “the news media try to report the news without bias” — the highest number since the survey began asking the question in 2004.
- Only 4% of those surveyed could name “petition” as one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment, the lowest percentage this year for any of the five freedoms.
- Only freedom of speech was named by more than half of the respondents, 59%. Freedom of religion was named by 24%, while just 14% named freedom of the press and 11% named assembly.
- 75% believe high school students should be able to exercise their First Amendment rights just as adults do, while 23% disagreed.
“Americans remain generally supportive of First Amendment freedoms. But the inability of most to even name the freedoms, combined with the increase of those who think the freedoms go too far, shows how quickly that support can erode,” said Policinski. “As a nation, we must better prepare our fellow and future citizens for the hard decision of defending core freedoms against those who would damage or limit them by violence or by law.”
Complete survey results are available at newseum.org and firstamendmentcenter.org
About the Newseum
The mission of the Newseum is to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment through education, information and entertainment. One of the top attractions in Washington, D.C., the Newseum’s 250,000-square-foot news museum offers visitors a state-of-the-art experience that blends news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits, and its Newseum Institute serves as a forum for the study, exploration and education of the First Amendment. The Newseum is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including the Freedom Forum. For more information, visit newseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Tax That Stripper!
Bubbles Burbujas is a Texas-based stripper. In high school, she spent a summer working for a state representative. Today, she dances at clubs across the country.
In Texas, strip clubs must pay a so-called “pole tax.” The Sexually Oriented Business Fee Act collects money ($5 a customer) from Texas gentleman’s clubs that feature nudity and serve alcohol and uses the funds to assist the state’s anti-sexual assault programs and help low-income residents pay for health care. For years, the act, which was passed in 2007, was caught up in court actions after a club owner asserted the tax impinged upon First Amendment rights; since, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled the tax would stand. Advocates of the tax claim clubs must pay for the negative secondary effects the clubs supposedly cause in their communities. Most recently, Illinois has imposed a similar tax.
Here, Bubbles reveals what it’s like to work with a pole tax.
What’s a “pole tax”?
In Texas, the pole tax is a $5 surcharge added to the club’s cover charge and is supposed to be charged to each customer who walks through the door. The money from the pole tax is supposed to go to low-income health insurance and programs that combat sexual assault. While the tax is being collected, the continuing appeals mean that none of it has been spent.
You work in Texas. How has the tax impacted you?
Mainly it means that customers ask questions about why the cover is an odd amount.
What do customers think of the tax?
They mostly don’t know about it, I think. If they ask “Why was the cover $15 when the ad says $10?” and I explain it to them, they don’t really ask further questions.
The supporters of the tax argue there’s a correlation between sex crimes and strip clubs. You say?
Definitely not. The data cited in the Texas Supreme Court’s decision a couple of summers ago almost all come from now-discredited studies. Secondary effects have never been proven.
In “Pole Taxes Not ‘Genius,’” you point out it’s the dancers, not the clubs, who are financially penalized by the tax. How does that work?
As it turned out, the club I work at chose to raise its cover rather than the house fee, so I’ll step back from that statement. I appreciate the fact that they passed the financial burden on to the consumer. I’m not sure if this is the case at every club, though. If the higher cover deters customers from entering the club, we both suffer, but I’m not sure that it has had an effect on customer volume.
Jezebel, as you pointed out, called Houston’s pole tax “genius,” adding, “Pretty smart to use money from folks who enjoy sexualized women to aid sexually assaulted women.” Are pole taxes feminist — or anti-feminist?
The pole tax is a regressive and optional tax and as such is definitely not progressive, liberal, or in line with a statewide economic policy that would further the interests of most of the working women in the state.
Do you believe pole taxes violate the First Amendment?
While I am grateful to the First Amendment-based victories strip clubs have won, I’m not sure that this is necessarily a violation of free speech rights because they aren’t taxing the performers specifically, which would arguably restrict their ability to perform. These are probably some fine legal points I am in no way qualified to address. I do believe that these types of regressive and specific taxes set a bad precedent.
As of this year, there’s a pole tax in Illinois, and other states are introducing their own. Do you expect more states to have pole taxes in the future?
Yeah, I do, because if the strip clubs in Texas couldn’t get it together to hire effective lobbyists and attorneys to fight them, who will?
You dance all over the country. What’s the best state to dance in and why?
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Texas regardless of my complaints because it’s the one place I’ve been treated as a true independent contractor, free to make my own schedule and hours. There’s also the advantage that most clubs don’t take a percentage of your earnings, just a flat fee. If you can avoid the most macho of the Texans, it’s a great place to work.
As protests against “The Innocence of Muslims” video span the globe – and U.S. officials pressure YouTube’s owner Google to restrict free expression – Remy imagines a world where politicians cave to angry mobs and dictate what we can see on YouTube.
Written and performed by Remy. Produced by Meredith Bragg.
About 2:30 minutes.