Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

When high school student Joseph Frederick unfurled his 14-foot banner declaring: “Bong Hits 4 Jesus,” at a school-sanctioned event in Juneau, Alaska, was he exercising his First Amendment right to free speech? Principal Deborah Morse suspended him. With the help of the ACLU (of course), he sued her in federal district court and lost, but they appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and won. Now the US Supreme Court will make the final decision.

For those who may not know, “bong hits” are inhalations of marijuana smoke from a large pipe called a “bong.” The principal suspended him because of the pro-drug message on his banner, not the insult to Christians. Frederick, now twenty-three years old, claimed in an interview with the Associated Press published last Sunday:

What the banner said was, ‘Look here, I have the right to free speech, and I’m asserting it.’ I wasn’t trying to say anything religious, anything about drugs.

Uh-huh. Did you take any bong hits before your AP interview, Mr. Frederick?

The First Amendment record of the Ninth Circuit (called “The Ninth Circus” by some) is sketchy. Just two weeks ago, it ruled against two Oakland employees in another free speech case. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported it:

The city of Oakland did not violate two employees’ freedom of speech when it removed a flyer they posted promoting the ‘natural family’ after other workers had founded a Gay and Lesbian Employees Association, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The flyer was taken down by supervisors after complaints by lesbian employees. It read:

Good News Employee Association is a forum for people of Faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day. With respect for the Natural Family, Marriage and Family values. If you would like to be a part of preserving integrity in the Workplace call Regina Rederford @xxx-xxxx or Robin Christy @xxx-xxxx

The two women thought they should have the same free speech rights as gays and lesbians, but US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker dismissed their lawsuit in 2005 and the Ninth Circuit upheld his ruling. Evidently the “Good News Employee’s Association” isn’t protected by the First Amendment because the “Gay and Lesbian Employee’s Association” has special rights under the city’s “anti-discrimination and harassment” statute. When homosexual activists in Maine passed a similar statute last year, they insisted they wanted only equal rights, not special rights. Uh-huh. Tell that to Robin Christy and Regina Rutherford.

One consolation the women might take is that the Ninth Circuit is the most-overruled appeals court in the country. That’s easy to understand when they rule that “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” is protected speech, but “Natural Family” is “hate speech”. I wonder what their ruling would have been if Frederick’s banner read “Bong Hits 4 Muhammad”?

In another student free speech case last April, the Ninth Circuit ruled a student’s rights were not violated when his school gave him an in-school suspension for refusing to take off a T-shirt proclaiming “Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned” and “Homosexuality is Shameful.” He wore it on a day when gay and lesbian students wore T-shirts supporting homosexuality during a school-sanctioned “Day of Silence.” The student asked for a preliminary injunction that would allow him to wear his T-shirt. The Supreme Court heard his case too but dodged a decision, claiming on March 5th that the case was moot since the student had graduated.

In still another student free speech case, the Associated Press reported this month that:

When a few classmates razzed Rebekah Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, "Do you have 10 moms?" she shot back: "That’s so gay."
Those three words landed the high school freshman in the principal’s office . . . [where she] got a warning and a notation in her file . . . [H]er parents sued, claiming officials at Santa Rosa’s Maria Carillo High violated their daughter’s First Amendment rights when they disciplined her for uttering a phrase that "enjoys widespread currency in youth culture." . . . Testifying last week about the 2002 incident, Rice, now 18, said that when she uttered those words, she was not referring to anyone’s sexual orientation. She said the phrase meant "that’s so stupid, that’s so silly, that’s so dumb."

Her parents contend the school didn’t protect Rebecca from harassment because of her religion, but instead disciplined her for using a word in a way they didn’t like when she defended herself. She could use “gay” to mean “happy” or “homosexual,” but not “stupid, silly, or dumb.” The word is protected, but not Rebecca. Should the “Ninth Circus” ever get this one - and they may since it’s a California case - want to guess how they’ll rule?

1 comment:

tomax7 said...

..."stupid, stupid, stupid".

That is what future historians will say of this generation and its PC ways.