Monday, June 25, 2007

Supreme Court rules against student in 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' free speech case

I don't have a lot of time to post at the moment, but in case you haven't seen it, the Supreme Court ruled today against Joseph Frederick in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case.

I haven't had a lot of time to review the court's opinion yet, but it appears the justices -- in a 6-3 decision -- ruled rather narrowly on the case, choosing to focus on the school's anti-drug mission in ruling that the speech restriction was justified.

"It was reasonable for (the principal) to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use-- and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's majority.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent, worried about the ramifications of limiting speech, especially that which seemed to be harmless.

"This case began with a silly nonsensical banner, (and) ends with the court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message."

We'll have more analysis on the fallout in the coming days. Stay tuned.

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