Where are the school-house gates?

On Jan. 13 1988 the U.S. Supreme Court announced a devastating blow to student speech and the student press when it approved the authority of the principal of Hazelwood East High School to remove controversial stories about teen pregnancy and divorce from the school newspaper.

The court’s decision in Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier was one of the most far-reaching decisions restricting free speech and has continued to restrict student speech into the 21st century.Continue Reading

The right to be let alone

The word privacy isn’t in the Constitution. Yet privacy has become one of the most important values protected by the Bill of Rights.

Privacy is the right to get away. To keep people out – out of your house, out of your business, out of your papers, out of your life. It is the right to be let alone, as Louis Brandeis put it. The right to be forgotten, as the Europeans now say.Continue Reading

Political correctness: clash of values

The national conversation about political correctness is a clash between two of the most important American values – freedom and equality.

How much freedom should people have to say nasty things that marginalize those who have historically been treated unequally?

The First Amendment’s answer to that question is to favor speech over good manners and civil discussion. It protects insults, lies, even hate speech, along with the politically incorrect act of burning the American flag.

But there are limits. One limit is employers and educational institutions have the legal responsibility under federal civil rights laws to protect against a racially hostile or sexually hostile atmosphere.Continue Reading

Two protections for religious freedom

The First Amendment protects religious freedom in two ways. One is the keep the government from telling people what creed they must worship. The other is to keep the government from telling people what creed they can’t worship.

The first is the Establishment Clause which means government can’t endorse one religion over another or religion over non-religion.

The second, the Free Exercise Clause, says government can’t interfere with people in their practice of religion, even if a church has some unusual practices, such as ritual animal sacrifices.Continue Reading