First Amendment Newsflash 10/2-10/15

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Photo credit: Courtesy of howtostartablogonline.net

The Supreme Court is back in session! Stay tuned!

Court News

A Texas high school senior is suing the Cy-Fair school district after claiming she was suspended from school for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of 20 media organizations filed an amicus brief asking the 9th Circuit to rehear a case, after the 9th Circuit allowed the government to prohibit wire or electronic communication service providers, like social media companies, from disclosing information about National Security Letters they receive requesting information about subscribers.

A federal judge ruled that the local transit authority violated the First Amendment when it refused to allow the union representing bus drivers to buy advertisements on buses in Spokane, Washington.

A federal judge ruled that an income tax exemption for housing for members of the clergy violates the First Amendment Establishment Clause because it benefits religious leaders and no one else.

A Texas judge ordered a former lawyer to pay a local media company’s legal fees arising from a defamation lawsuit under provisions of a state law enacted to protect First Amendment rights by discouraging frivolous lawsuits.

In newly filed lawsuits on behalf of the city of Charlottesville, local businesses and neighborhood associations accuse the organizers of the August “Unite the Right” rally, as well as private militia groups and their leaders, of violating Virginia law by organizing and acting as paramilitary units.

Two federal district courts ruled that the First Amendment does not allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent manufacturers from providing truthful information about their products to doctors.

The California Attorney General, the Washington Attorney General, and the ACLU filed suits alleging that the Trump administration’s rules widening the range of employers and insurers that can invoke religious or moral beliefs to avoid the Affordable Care Act requirement that contraceptives be covered by insurance violates the First Amendment by favoring certain religious views.

A D.C. Superior Court judge allowed California Internet firm to redact user-identifying data from an anti-Trump website in information it provides to federal prosecutors as part of the investigation into Inauguration Day riots.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Baltimore’s policy of prohibiting alleged victims of police brutality from disparaging police after they receive cash settlements as violating the alleged victims’ First Amendment rights.

A Charlottesville judge declined to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the city’s move to take down a statute of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

An Arkansas judge, who was barred from considering any execution-related cases after blocking the use of a lethal injection drug and participating in an anti-death penalty demonstration, filed a lawsuit in federal court against seven members of the Arkansas Supreme Court saying the justices violated his First Amendment right.

Georgia’s highest court reversed the conviction of a man who was arrested for disorderly conduct after holding up his middle finger and shouting at his pastor during a church service.

The First Liberty Institute, representing a North Carolina County Board of Commissioners, filed papers asking the Supreme Court to review a ruling barring the Commissioners from opening its meetings with Christian prayers.

 

Federal Executive News

President Trump threatened NBC’s broadcast license on Twitter because he is unhappy with how its news division is covering his presidency.

 

State and Local Legislative News

An Indiana state lawmaker, angered by talks of gun control, has drafted a measure to require licenses for journalists similar to those required for handgun owners. The measure would require journalists to be registered, fingerprinted, and vetted for their “character and reputation.”

A St. Louis lawmaker submitted a proposal to repeal an existing ordinance on unlawful assemblies and limit the way police may respond to protests.

 

Other News and Commentary

Civil rights organizations argue that a Louisiana high school is violating its students’ First Amendment rights by ordering athletes to stand during the national anthem.

The University of Wisconsin System leaders approved a policy that calls for suspending or expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations.

The University of Florida released a statement confirming a speaking event featuring white nationalist Richard Spencer on Oct. 19.

A new survey from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) found that a majority of students on college campuses self-censor in class, support disinviting some guest speakers with whom they disagree, and don’t know that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment.

 

That’s it for your First Amendment Newsflash Oct. 2-Oct. 15. See you again on Oct. 29! In the meantime, don’t forget to secure your ticket to our annual symposium: Distorting the Truth: “Fake News” and Free Speech! Tickets are going FAST, and we’ve already sold out of a few options. But don’t fret! We still have:

  • Four in-person CLE tickets available for 4.5 credits until 10/19!
  • Unlimited webinar tickets available until 10/25!
  • new option for no-lunch-provided in-person student and general admission tickets.

Only 12 days left! We can’t wait to see you there!

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