Sunday, April 23, 2006

Curtailing Freedom of Speech

A judge in California has banned the wearing of shirts bearing anti-gay
messages. His decision was based on the question of whether the First
Amendment's freedom of speech protected anti-gay messages and whether sexual
orientation provides the same basis for protection as does race or religion.
California is known for its progressive policies when it comes to public matters
but this decision only stifles freedom of speech, and does not promote the
protection of any rights. The question remains however, that if one individual's
anti-gay message is to be considered hateful and inciting/inflammatory,
therefore not protected by the First Amendment, by what right does another
individual's anti-republican, anti-religious, etc., can be considered protected?
I believe that there is a double standard in place, and it only helps in
diminishing individual rights under the guise of First Amendment protectionist.
Here's a brief excerpt:

The shirt, which said "Be ashamed, our school has
embraced what God has condemned," on the front, and "Homosexuality is shameful"

on the back, was substantially disruptive, and an "impermissible intrusion on
the rights of gay and lesbian students," Reinhardt wrote.
Kozinski and
Reinhardt both have longstanding records as First Amendment advocates, but their
discourses here showed little agreement, even on minor points. In fact, they
spent several pages attacking one another's reasoning, and using footnotes to
encourage one another to watch movies supporting their points. Reinhardt even
brought up a dissent Kozinski wrote as recently as the week before to point out
what he saw as inconsistencies in reasoning.
In brief -- and very little
about the opinion was brief -- Reinhardt said that in a school environment,
speech attacking homosexuality can disrupt education, and may thus be silenced
by administrators. But such power has limits, he said.
"T-shirts proclaiming
'Young Republicans Suck,' or 'Young Democrats Suck,' for example, may not be
very civil, but they would certainly not be sufficiently damaging to the
individual or the educational process to warrant a limitation on the wearer's
First Amendment rights," Reinhardt wrote.
That's the kind of reasoning that
these days will elicit cries of "activist judge."
"This is a classic example
of social engineering and manipulating the law," said Kevin Therion, a lawyer
with the Alliance Defense Fund who argued the case for Harper. He also questions
Reinhardt's presumption that gay students deserve the protections of an ethnic
or religious group.


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