Blog Archive: 2012

Photography Is Not a Crime: The Year of the Citizen Journalist

Carlos Miller’s recent trial victory represents another small step in the successful assertion of the First Amendment rights of citizen-journalists. Miller, who runs the website Photography Is Not A Crime, was charged with resisting arrest when he refused to stop filming and evacuate an area during an Occupy Miami event. While the American Civil Liberties Union states that police only have the right to stop an individual from photographing in a public space when the photographer’s activities “are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations” a quick glance down Miller’s website shows that police are quick to use charges of resisting arrest to confiscate then delete digital images.

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No Comments | Posted by Sidney L. Fowler on Sun. November 25, 2012 7:22 AM
Categories: Freedom of the Press

Can a Bar Association Violate First Amendment Rights Through Its Dues Collection Process?

In October 2012, Nebraska State Senator and Attorney, Scott Lautenbaugh, filed a class action suit against the Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA). The suit seeks to have the NSBA’s lobbying and dues procedures deemed unconstitutional. Among the claims for relief are claims that: the collection of the dues constitute compelled speech and association, violating the First Amendment; and that the procedures implemented by the NSBA are inadequate as they do not allow members to object or affirmatively consent to the collection of dues to be used for lobbying purposes.

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No Comments | Posted by Porsha M. Robinson on Sun. November 18, 2012 6:38 PM
Categories: Freedom of Association, Freedom of Speech

The Hazelwood Symposium

The Hazelwood Symposium is almost here! In honor of this landmark event spanning this Thursday, November 8 to Friday, November 9, this week’s blog post is dedicated to Hazelwood School District v. Khulmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988), the principal case of the symposium, as well as an overview of a few of the speakers we’re honored to present.

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No Comments | Posted by Belal Elrahal on Sun. November 4, 2012 7:27 AM
Categories: Symposium

Christian Cheerleaders & Religious Speech

“If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31” and “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me! Phil 4:13” are a few examples of the banners cheerleaders displayed at Kountze High School in East Texas. For three weeks, football players ran through the large banners containing quotes from the Bible while entering the field. While the student cheerleaders believed this was just a way to exercise their freedom of speech, an unknown person complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who in turn communicated with the school superintendent. Banners were subsequently prohibited at games. The mother of one of the cheerleaders, along with fourteen other parents, brought suit to challenge the school district’s decision to bar the cheerleaders’ signs. She claims that everyone at the small town high school agrees with the statements on the banners and for that reason they should not be a problem.

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No Comments | Posted by Anna Jordan Cobb (Jordan) on Sun. October 28, 2012 8:17 AM
Categories: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech

Social Media and Teachers’ First Amendment Rights

New York City guidance school counselor Tiffani Webb was fired from her job at Murry Bergtraum High School after racy photos of her in lingerie showed up on the Internet. Although this is only the latest in a recent string of educators losing their jobs for online behavior, Webb’s situation is slightly different; the pictures were taken over seventeen years ago, before she became a government employee. Additionally, as the Huffington Post reports, she disclosed her previous modeling career before she was hired by the Department of Education twelve years ago. She had been investigated three times by the DoE, but due to her excellent reviews and track record had always been cleared to work again. In December 2011, just days before she was to be tenured, Webb was fired for “conduct unbecoming” of a DoE employee. A three person panel cited the fact that “[t]he inappropriate photos were a accessible to impressionable adolescents,” in dismissing Webb. She is now suing the Department of Education for wrongful termination, sex discrimination, and violation of her First Amendment rights.

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No Comments | Posted by Samantha L. Thompson on Mon. October 22, 2012 8:53 AM
Categories: Social Media

The New York Times and Free Speech

The New York Times has recently adopted a new policy authorizing reporters to refuse to cede editorial authority to sources. “Quotation approval” refers to the practice by reporters of granting sources “as a condition of an interview, that quotes be submitted afterward to the source or a press aide to review, approve or edit.” Absent this agreement, subjects decline to be interviewed, meaning that as a matter of good business practice, reporters must acquiesce in order to gain the access they need to do their jobs. In July of this year, Jeremy Peters, political reporter for the New York Times, published an article describing the impact of after-the-fact quotation approval on campaign reporting. In response, the Times’ Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, called for the Times to adopt a new policy to combat this industry-wide practice.

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No Comments | Posted by Charlotte R. Stewart on Mon. October 8, 2012 1:33 PM
Categories: Freedom of Speech

Celebrating 30 Years of ‘Banned Books Week’

September 30, 2012-October 6, 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, and will be celebrated as a part of UNC’s Fourth Annual First Amendment Day on October 2, 2012. Banned Books Week began as a reaction to the rapid increase in books that were challenged in educational facilities, bookstores, and libraries. The American Library Association (ALA) seeks to “promote[] the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular….” The Office for Intellectual Freedom, a subset of the ALA, tracks and records challenges to books, and subsequently seeks to honor the First Amendment protected Freedom of Speech through Banned Books Week each year.

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No Comments | Posted by Demitra M. Sourlis on Mon. October 1, 2012 9:46 AM
Categories: Banned Books Week, First Amendment Day

Anti-Islam Ads: Hate Speech or Protected First Amendment Activity?

According to an Associated Press article, an anti-Islam advertisement were to go on display in 10 Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) subway stations in New York on Monday after a federal judge in the Southern District of New York ruled that the MTA could not refuse the advertisement on the basis of its content.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) sponsored the ad, which read, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." The same ads recently appeared on San Francisco city buses; authorities there placed disclaimers beside the ads explaining that the city did not support the message and that all revenue generated from the ads would go to charity.

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No Comments | Posted by Justice D. Warren on Mon. September 24, 2012 11:53 AM
Categories: Freedom of Speech

2012 Symposium Announcement!

2012 Symposium Flyer

For more information and to register, please visit

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No Comments | Posted by Julia A. Gonzales (Alexandra) on Tue. September 18, 2012 10:56 PM
Categories: Symposium

Appalling But Not Blasphemous: Why The Anti-Islam Film Is Protected Speech

On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed during an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi. The attack was purportedly sparked by an American-made film that presented a highly critical portrayal of the prophet Muhammad. The Wall Street Journal reports that the film entitled “Innocence of Muslims” was produced by a man who identified himself in a telephone interview as Sam Bacile, but whom the FBI believes to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. In the interview, Bacile described the film as “a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam,” and later referred to Islam as “a cancer.”

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No Comments | Posted by Kelly A. Crecco on Mon. September 17, 2012 1:21 PM
Categories: Freedom of Speech
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