First Amendment Newsflash 12/18/17-1/7/18

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.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Josh Hallett


Federal Court News

A federal appeals court ruled that a Baltimore law, which required pregnancy clinics to post signs in their waiting rooms disclosing that they do not offer or refer women for abortions, violated the First Amendment.

A federal judge temporarily barred Washington, D.C. from enforcing part of a recently passed law requiring cautionary labels on “flushable” wet wipes, ruling the city’s approach probably violates the First Amendment.

A federal judge denied a company’s request to block the House Intelligence Committee from demanding bank records for 70 of the private investigative firm’s transactions in the Trump dossier investigation, ruling that the request did not violate the company’s First Amendment rights to political speech and association.

The first six Inauguration Day protestors to go to trial were acquitted by a jury on all charges of rioting and destruction of property.

A federal judge permanently barred Arizona from enforcing a law that banned a Mexican American studies programs in Tuscon schools, stating that the law violated the First Amendment by denying students the “right to receive information and ideas.”

A federal appeals court ruled that the federal trademark laws prohibiting immoral or scandalous language are unconstitutional.

A federal appeals court ruled Idaho’s “ag-gag”  ban, which prohibits recording secret videos and lying to enter factory farms for the purpose of exposing animal abuse, unconstitutional on free speech grounds.

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First Amendment Newsflash 12/4-12/17

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.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jamie


Federal Court News

The Supreme Court takes partisan gerrymandering case to determine whether partisan gerrymandering retaliates against voters for their past support of a party’s candidate, violating the First Amendment.

A federal judge rejected a Catholic organization’s request to force metro to post its Christmas advertisements, affirming that the transit agency’s decision to ban posters featuring a religious-themed scene does not violate an organization’s First Amendment right.

Federal appellate judge is to consider Border Patrol’s right to keep observers and protesters at least 150 feet from a controversial checkpoint in southern Arizona.

Nebraska state senators and University of Nebraska officials are drafting separate proposals for new policies to referee free speech on campus.

A federal jury rejected a professor’s claim that Florida Atlantic University officials violated his constitutional rights when they fired him for stating the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was a hoax.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration from enforcing new rules that could significantly reduce women’s access to free birth control after a state attorney general claimed the new rule violated the First Amendment for promoting employer’s religious beliefs over the constitutional rights of women.

Value Village is suing Washington State Attorney General claiming that the Attorney General’s office’s insistence on the company disclosing what percentage of its sales prices go to charity violates the company’s free speech rights.

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N.C. House Bill 330: Immunizing Drivers Who Accidentally Hit Protestors

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of McKenzie Wark

By Kaleigh Darty; Staff Member (Vol. 16)

Imagine that an unarmed young man in your hometown was shot and killed by police in the course of an arrest. Word spreads throughout the town, and soon after the incident, a video surfaces online. In a matter of hours, the young man’s name has gone viral, attached to the popular hash tag “#BlackLivesMatter.” Before you know it, people from all over the country are tweeting and posting about this man’s death and the circumstances surrounding it. In a matter of days, people near and far begin migrating to your hometown preparing for a protest.

Fast-forward: a rally is held. The young man’s family speaks out, a preacher offers words of encouragement, and then an activist speaks about the long battle between minorities and police in this country. The crowd’s mood is a mix between pain, sorrow, and anger, and so the march begins. The streets are filled with hundreds, maybe thousands, and they are all chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist police!”

Now imagine you are a single parent, with three mouths at home to feed. Your minimum wage job is barely enough to keep the lights on anymore. Last week, your kid was sick, and the week before that your car wouldn’t start. Your manager gave you your final warning: one more late arrival and you will be out of a job. So here you are, on your way to work, and somehow you get stuck in the middle of a protest. You ask yourself, “Could this day get any worse?” By the time you arrive, madness surrounds you. Police can’t seem to get things under control, and there’s barely enough room for your car to make it down the street. So, you slow down, remain calm, and stay focused on the road. But then, out of nowhere, a protestor steps in front of your car. You collide.

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Sticks and Stones May Break my Bones, and Words [Can Sometimes] Hurt Me: Commonwealth v. Carter and Words that Kill

Plott_Blog ImageBy Jasmine Plott; Staff Member (Vol. 16)

“I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe. You can’t keep doing this every day.”

These were some of the last words that Michelle Carter texted to her then-boyfriend Conrad Roy III, in July 2014 as he contemplated suicide.

In the summer of 2012, while on a vacation in Florida, Carter and Roy met for the first time and entered into a relationship.  The relationship continued as the two discovered that they lived less than an hour away from each other in Massachusetts — Carter in Plainville and Roy in Matapoisett.  Despite the proximity, the two did not meet up in person, but instead regularly texted and Facebook messaged with each other to communicate.

Both teens were fighting private battles.  Roy had been struggling with severe depression, stemming from his parents’ divorce.  Carter was also fighting a battle with depression and feelings of loss after a close friend had suddenly cut Carter out of her life.  The two bonded over their struggles, and as their communications progressed, they gradually began to talk more about Roy’s depression in June 2014 and began to talk seriously about Roy’s plans to kill himself.

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First Amendment Newsflash 11/13-12/3

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.



Federal Court News

The Supreme Court will decide whether it violates the First Amendment for California to require “crisis pregnancy centers,” which counsel patients against abortion, and instead tell patients that the state offers contraception and abortion services.

The Supreme Court will hear a case that tests whether cops need a warrant to track individuals through cell tower location technology.

The Supreme Court agreed to revisit the issue of whether five million government workers can refuse to pay union fees arguing that mandatory fees violate the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case to determine whether a Colorado cake shop owner has a First Amendment right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple.

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Blaine Amendments–Friends or Foes of the Constitution? The Impact of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer

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By Kayla Rowsey; Staff Member (Vol. 16)

Ah, yes—playgrounds. Definitely the forum we all had in mind for presenting such a divisive Establishment Clause issue to the Supreme Court. Let’s figure out how we got here.

Missouri has a clause in its state constitution, commonly known as a Blaine Amendment, which forbids the allocation of public funds to any church, religious organization/figure, or religious school/university. Additionally, it prohibits the donation of real estate and personal property by the state. It does not consider whether or not the funding would be used for a secular purpose.

In 1875, Representative James G. Blaine proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution with the goal of taking the Establishment Clause a step further. Specifically, the amendment sought to prohibit state funds from going to religious schools. Many believe the Anti-Catholicism movement and other nativist sentiments motivated this, as the Catholic Church taught many immigrant children.

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North Carolina’s First Amendment: Provisional Protections for Liberty in a State Constitution

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jimmy Emerson, DVM

By Adam Griffin; Staff Member (Vol. 16)

North Carolina’s First Amendment

Before the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, and before the Supreme Court doctrine of incorporation was created to impose the protections of the First Amendment against the State Governments, most State Constitutions had sister provisions that protected core First Amendment liberties. The existence of these provisions was a principal reason that the Federalist Framers of the Constitution argued against the need for a Federal Bill of Rights. So long as the States recognized these fundamental freedoms in their constitutions, and the people remained conscious of the natural existence of these rights, they would be protected by the structural limits on government and the censorial check on excesses of power imposed by an active, informed, and alert citizenry.

The North Carolina Constitution and Declaration of Rights provided such First Amendment protections for its citizens in separate clauses of its fundamental charter. The freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly and petition, the freedom of conscience, and the free exercise of religion, and prohibition on an establishment of religion were all rights protected in North Carolina’s original 1776 Constitution. Surprisingly to modern eyes, the original North Carolina State Constitution did not include an express provision protecting the freedom of speech.

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