Monday, June 25, 2007

Supreme Court Just Says No To 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus'

The free speech rights of dumbass teenagers just got a little less free-
The Supreme Court tightened limits on student speech Monday, ruling against a high school student and his 14-foot-long "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner.

Schools may prohibit student expression that can be interpreted as advocating drug use, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court in a 5-4 ruling...

...Frederick [the student] said the banner was a nonsensical message that he first saw on a snowboard. He intended the banner to proclaim his right to say anything at all...

And in the politics-make-strange-bedfellows aspect of this case-
...Conservative groups that often are allied with the administration are backing Frederick out of concern that a ruling for Morse would let schools clamp down on religious expression, including speech that might oppose homosexuality or abortion...

Of course, that aspects gets trickier, because while the Constitution does protect free speech, it also establishes a separation between church and state (though the current Court is taking a light hand on these matters for now), so expressing religious messages in a public school puts you in murky waters. Not that I object to religious groups having the right to hold after-school meetings at school, as long as it's the same as other voluntary groups.

One could also make the argument that divisive rhetoric-- ie. anti-gay rhetoric-- does have a proven detrimental effect on a school environment (as anyone who's been bullied at school for any reason can attest), whereas some teenagers holding up a 'Bong Hits' sign outside school grounds affects only stuffy old geezers and principals.

Something tells me that this Court thinks differently than I do, though.

[PS- Oddly enough, in a separate case decision today, the Supreme Court used free-speech rights to knock down an aspect of recent campaign finance reforms, now loosening restrictions on "corporate and union-funded television ads that air close to elections." I guess I agree with the general concept of the ruling, but it's a sad day when special interest groups' rights are better protected by the Supreme Court than that of the average Joe.]

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