First Amendment Newsflash 6/26-7/9

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash: the First Amendment Law Review’s new 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.


Supreme Court News

In Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the Supreme Court held 7-2 that excluding churches and religious organizations from otherwise neutral and secular aid programs violates the free exercise clause. Read The Atlantic’s analysis here.

Certs were granted, judgments were vacated, and cases were remanded to state supreme courts in three cases in Colorado and one in New Mexico dealing with use of public monies at religious schools. The Colorado cases look at a county school voucher program that allowed students to use vouchers to attend religious schools. The New Mexico case deals with a textbook lending program that excludes religious schools. These cases must be reconsidered in light of Trinity Lutheran.

Cert was granted in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, a case that pits anti-discrimination law against free speech and free exercise by questioning whether it violates the First Amendment for Colorado anti-discrimination laws to require a baker to create cakes for same-sex weddings.

In the case involving travel restrictions imposed by a Trump executive order (Trump v. Hawaii), the Supreme Court granted cert and reversed lower courts’ preliminary injunctions “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Plaintiffs in this case argue the travel restrictions violate the establishment clause because they were made with animus toward Islam. Read NPR’s analysis here.

Cert was denied in a case from the Seventh Circuit upholding Indiana’s ban on political robocalls, which had been challenged on First Amendment grounds.

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What’s That Sign Say? : A Brief Examination of the Four Opinions in Reed v. Town of Gilbert

RoadsignsBy Emily Jessup; Staff Member (Vol. 15)

Imagine you’re driving around town, when something catches your eye. You slow down, and look. There, right in front of you, spray painted in giant letters on the side of a house is this: “SCREWED BY THE TOWN OF CARY.” Huh? Why hasn’t the Town done anything about this? Well, they tried to do something and consequently, the Town of Cary found themselves in Court battling over whether their sign ordinance, which prohibited signs of that size, violated the First Amendment. Although the Town’s ordinance was eventually upheld as a reasonable restriction on speech, and thus not contrary to the First Amendment, the case went all the way to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a final decision. Continue reading

The Future of Cyberbullying Legislation in North Carolina


By Hanna Fox; Staff Member (Vol. 15)

Young people have an unprecedented access to technology, which grants them abundant access to the world around them, as well as to one another constantly.  Technology’s increased prevalence is relevant in children’s education, entertainment, and social interactions. Though children experience many benefits from the increased use of technology, that same surge has created a new monster: cyberbullying. Continue reading

The Teacher Followed Me Home: Bell and a School’s Control of Student Speech Outside the Classroom


By Kirstin Vinal; Staff Member (Vol. 15)

Where does a student’s speech stop being under control of their school? Could it be when they are 500 feet away from school property? Or when they are home? In 2015, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Bell v. Itawamba County School Board that speech outside of school grounds and in a student’s home is still subject to school regulation. Continue reading

Exposed: How Mugshots Expanded Government Secrecy

Lee Blog Picture

By Amber Lee; Staff Member (Vol. 15)

Despite increased calls for government transparency, the Sixth Circuit gave the federal government the precedent needed to further withhold information from the public.  The Sixth Circuit holding in Free Press II states that an individuals interests in avoiding embarrassment or humiliation outweighs the public’s interest in knowing information.  Continue reading

Fraud, A Weak Copyright Claim, and What Might Have Been: A Brief Examination of Garcia v. Google, Inc.

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By Jennifer Davis; Staff Member (Vol. 15)

Cindy Got “Bamboozled”

 When Cindy Garcia responded to a casting call for a film titled Desert Warrior, she did not object to delivering two innocuous seeming lines while “sounding concerned.” She probably would not have objected when in 2012, the director Mark Youssef, translated the film into Arabic, and perhaps she would not even have objected when Youssef changed the name of the film to The Innocence of Muslims. Continue reading