Monday, November 22, 2021

Strange allies / ‘Clearly an effort to silence people’ / Rap on trial

Strange allies. A University of Minnesota media ethics and law professor says the FBI raid on Project Veritas leader James O’Keefe’s home has triggered an unusual demonstration of support from the establishment media O’Keefe has spent his career trashing.
Vanity Fair: Project Veritas muzzled The New York Times …
 … through a court ruling that the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press says violates the First Amendment.
Jacob Sullom at Reason: The Times’ protest of that ruling “wrongly implies that press freedom is limited to ‘real’ journalists.”

‘Clearly an effort to silence people with legitimate grievances.’ A Columbus Dispatch editorial sounds an alarm about an Ohio “anti-riot” bill.”
Massachusetts lawmakers face a similar choice.
A prosecutor has dropped a felonious assault charge against a woman accused of damaging a Cleveland restaurant employee’s hearing as she used a bullhorn to accuse the establishment of sexist and racist practices.

‘The defendant was not convicted … for simply exercising his First Amendment rights.’ A judge has sentenced a Donald Trump supporter from New York to 19 months in prison for threatening to “slaughter” members of Congress shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
An Arizona man’s been convicted of communicating an interstate threat to kill or harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

‘Boston’s Religious-Flag War.’ The New Republic says the Supreme Court will decide whether the rotation of flags on poles in front of City Hall can exclude religious symbols.

Rap on trial. Two New York state senators are pushing a bill that would block prosecutors from using rap artists’ lyrics against them in court …
 … a practice they contend contributes to racial bias.
Waukesha, Wis., SUV massacre suspect Darrell Brooks is a rapper who posted an anti-Trump and anti-police song to SoundCloud.

You’re gonna wanna diagram this one. In a case that pits the free-speech-oriented Electronic Frontier Foundation against the pro-gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety Action, the EFF is asking a federal appeals court to reverse a lower-court order requiring disclosure of the identities of people who mockingly used Everytown’s trademarked logo in plans for 3D-printed gun parts.
The EFF says it’s worried that if the order stands, it could bar the anonymous use of a trademark for political or satirical purposes.
The ACLU and the Knight First Amendment Institute are petitioning the Supreme Court to review U.S. intelligence agencies’ system of “prepublication review,” which forbids ex-public servants from writing or speaking publicly without first winning the government’s OK.

On campus …
‘We’ll put your mother[*]*cking ass in the hospital, n*gga.’ A federal court says the First Amendment doesn’t protect a Texas high school football team captain who conveyed that message to a rival school’s student in a Snapchat video.
 A new book condemns Koch Industries for an attempt to control “free speech” on college campuses.
 Congress has launched an investigation into whether the University of Florida is violating professors’ free-speech rights by requiring “all employees to seek approval from the university before engaging in outside activities.”
Under pressure from the National Coalition Against Censorship, among others, North Kansas City Schools have returned a couple of award-winning books to school shelves …

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Tuesday, November 9, 2021

‘Stay calm and be pleasant’ / ‘I’m going to kill you’ / ‘Educational gag orders’

‘Stay calm and be pleasant.’ That’s counsel from the state of Michigan to almost 50,000 government employees as they encounter a rising tide of “First Amendment auditors”—citizens recording video in and around public buildings.
Reason: The Supreme Court Declines To Determine if You Have a First Amendment Right To Film the Police.”
New York University’s First Amendment Watch offers a guide to teaching the rights and limitations of recording audio and video of police.

‘Priscilla Villarreal was put in jail for asking a police officer a question.’ A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit filed by a journalist who operates entirely on Facebook—a woman challenging her 2017 arrest under a law a judge later found unconstitutional.
She’s working with Starz on a TV series.
A panel of Chicago-area journalists and educators convenes next Wednesday, Nov. 17, for a free online forum exploring “the threat to local journalism—and democracy.”

‘I’m going to kill you.’ That was just one of the threatening messages sent from a man in jail to his sister—a man whose First Amendment challenge to his cyberstalking conviction has been rejected by a Washington appeals court.
A Wisconsin appeals court has reversed the conviction of a man whose social media posts—of his movie ticket, but also of bullets and a loaded magazine—prompted his arrest at the theater on disorderly conduct charges.

‘Sen. Warren … betrayed our fundamental right to free speech.’ A lawsuit filed against Elizabeth Warren by the authors and publisher of a book critical of the U.S. response to the pandemic accuses her of violating the First Amendment when she encouraged Amazon to stop peddling their work.
The FDA sent one of the authors a warning letter in February, directing him to “cease the sale of … unapproved and unauthorized products for the mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis, or cure of COVID-19.”
An employment lawyer weighs the question of whether vaccination opposition merits First Amendment protection.

On campus …

‘Educational gag orders.’ A report from the human rights group PEN America says bans on the teaching of critical race theory threaten First Amendment rights.
An Oregon teachers union is going to court against school board limits on images and signs employees can display on campus—a policy that began as a ban on displays of support for Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride.
Reversing a decision condemned by free-speech experts, the University of Florida now says it’ll let three professors testify in a suit challenging a new law that critics say limits voting rights.
The New Republic says a Texas political spat has dragged the Supreme Court into a First Amendment dilemma: “When can school boards … discipline their own members?”
The conservative group Moms for Liberty is suing a Florida school board over a public-participation policy that it says limits the presentation of opposing viewpoints.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

1st Amendment defense / ‘Why filter online speech at all?’ / Getting the ‘f—’ out

First Amendment defense. As the federal civil trial begins for organizers and participants in the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally that scarred Charlottesville, Va., defendants say they were just exercising their right to free speech.
BuzzFeed News: Jury selection Monday “revolved around one of the far-right’s favorite bogeymen: antifa.”
The AP reports the case is built on “chat room exchanges, social media postings and other communications in which the defendants use racial epithets and discuss … what weapons to bring.”
One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers promises, “This really will be the first time the entire story of Charlottesville will be told out loud.”

‘The single greatest First Amendment victory for the press in American history.’ First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams says that’s what’s on the line Friday as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to hear appeals in two libel cases.
A Maine lawyer and former school committee member: “It’s not so easy to tell when unhinged ideas deserve First Amendment protection.”

On campus …

‘An impossible—and unconstitutional—choice.’ The ACLU is going to court against a new Oklahoma law limiting how race and gender subjects can be taught in classrooms, saying that it requires teachers to avoid those topics altogether “or risk losing their teaching licenses” …
A national conservative group is suing a Massachusetts public school system, complaining that the creation of “racial affinity groups” for students of color and policies against biased speech violate white students’ civil rights.
The New York Post: A group of U.S. House Republicans wants U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to take back a memo assigning the FBI to investigate threats against local school officials—because the organization that prompted his directive has apologized.
A Columbia Law School prof asks a fighting-words question: “Is the public school system constitutional?
A federal judge says Vermont Law School can conceal two murals some people find racially offensive.
A University of Texas journalism professor: “For a country that purports to value our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, it has become clear that some of our elected officials don’t understand it” …
 … which makes this as good a point in this newsletter as any to spotlight the Free Speech Center’s tools to get students talking about the First Amendment.

‘Why filter online speech at all?’ Bloomberg offers an overview of internet companies’ approach to First Amendment freedoms.
Among today’s “Facebook Papers” revelations: CNN reports the company’s language blind spots around the world have allowed hate speech to flourish.
Legal writer Jenna Greene at Reuters: Facebook’s oversight board may be a model for content regulation that avoids First Amendment issues.

Getting the ‘f—’ out. Even though a law banning obscenities from Maine license plates took effect last week, existing plates—including one that reads simply “F—-Y0U”—won’t disappear anytime soon.
The Daily Show spotlights a New Jersey woman’s legal fight to decorate her home with as many anti-Biden obscenities as she pleases.
A North Carolina homeowner says her property owners association is unfairly threatening her with fines because she’s posted signs condemning white supremacy, honoring late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and declaring that “Capitol Police Lives Matter”—as others’ signs, including one reading “Blue Lives Matter,” remain.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Reporters’ ‘toughest protections’ / ‘Municipal government can’t play music critic’ / Netflix and free speech

Reporters’ ‘toughest protections.’ California has a new law forbidding police from “intentionally assaulting, interfering with, or obstructing” journalists covering civil protests.
The California Police Chiefs Association warns that the new law threatens to “unduly penalize officers for carrying out their critical mission of protecting the public.”
A separate new California law outlaws harassment of people entering vaccination clinics …
 … although First Amendment experts question its constitutionality.

On campus …

‘Telling elected officials they’re wrong is democracy, not intimidation.’ Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is challenging Attorney General Merrick Garland’s direction to the FBI and U.S. attorneys to take action against pandemic-era harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against public school board members, teachers and workers.
The National School Boards Association asked the administration to take action.
Among the First Amendment cases to watch in this Supreme Court term: Whether a school-choice program can block tuition assistance to parents whose kids attend religious schools.
An American Bar Association fellow asks (and answers) the question: Are government bans on the teaching of critical race theory unconstitutional?
Free Speech Handbook, a new nonfiction graphic novel, aims at helping teens and their teachers understand the First Amendment’s protections.
Read an excerpt here.

‘Municipal government can’t play music critic.’ Free Speech Center Director Ken Paulson says a South Carolina town’s new law requiring businesses to turn down music that includes “obscene, profane or vulgar language” is “clearly unconstitutional.”
The original request for the ordinance warned that such music “is inconsistent with the City’s identity as a family friendly and family oriented location.”
The American Civil Liberties Union’s on the case.

Is Netflix’s movie recommendation system ‘free speech’? As it defends itself in a lawsuit filed by a family blaming the high school drama 13 Reasons Why for a teenager’s death, the company’s answer is yes.
A federal judge has dismissed satanists’ four-year-long free-speech fight to erect a monument in a Minnesota town’s veterans memorial park.

‘Qualified immunity robbed me of my shot at justice.’ A retired Arizona state forensic scientist warns that “if you work for the government, your superiors can’t be held financially responsible for ordering you to change your testimony and retaliating against you when you refuse.”
Law professor David L. Hudson Jr. analyzes the federal appeals court ruling in the case.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Twitter’s First Amendment threat / Freest speech / Screaming ‘F*** Biden’ is not illegal

Twitter’s First Amendment threat. Free-speech advocates fear government officials could use experimental new Twitter tools to suppress dissent.
A federal judge says the U.S. Postal Service violated the First when its now-defunct custom stamp program rejected as too political an artist’s design that showed Uncle Sam being strangled by a snake shaped like a dollar sign.
Texas is suing the Biden administration over federal regulations that it complains would violate the First by forcing businesses to recognize gay and transgender people’s bathroom and pronoun preferences.

‘Metro can’t block PETA’s appeals not to eat birds while running fried chicken ads.’ People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is suing Los Angeles’ transit agency on First Amendment grounds for refusing to run animal-rights ads on buses.
A federal appeals court is considering whether a Wisconsin law forbidding people from “photographing, videotaping, audiotaping, … monitoring or recording” hunters violates the First.

On campus …

Freest speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has a new ranking of the nation’s top colleges for free speech and open inquiry …
To protest a policy restricting the size of such displays, a University of Virginia (No. 22) student posted a sign on her residence door bearing the full text of the First Amendment—and the university took it down.
A federal judge says a computer policy designed to protect students at Virginia Tech (No. 107) from harassment is too vague to be enforced.
Colorado State University (No. 77) students and staff are calling for creation of a task force to discern free speech from harassment.
A University of Utah (No. 99) First Amendment scholar predicts the Supreme Court ruling in the case of a cheerleader’s profane Snapchat sets the stage for more such suits.
The University of Nebraska (No. 92) Thursday hosts an online First Amendment and global free-expression seminar …
 … for which you can register free here.

‘The First Amendment is not a game setting for the government to toggle off and on.’ A federal judge has ruled against a Wisconsin sheriff who threatened a high school student with jail if she didn’t remove social media posts saying she’d contracted COVID-19.
The cops acted after a school administrator condemned her post as “a foolish means to get attention.”

Screaming ‘F*** Biden’ is not illegal. A USA Today fact-check confirms that the First Amendment protects the shouting of profanity at a president.
A Stetson University law professor says Florida’s under-challenge “anti-riot” bill has had a chilling effect on political protest.

How free is free speech? New polling finds Americans mostly united on the First Amendment’s importance—but not so much on its protection of hate speech …
 … illustrating what the Freedom Forum’s Gene Policinski sees as the challenge of “balancing long-protected freedoms against shortcuts … in the name of combatting society’s ills.”
A federal judge says the First protects MTV’s use of the title Floribama Shore from a complaint by the Florida beach bar Flora-Bama.
For your next movie night: Films spotlighting the First’s five freedoms of speech, press, petition, assembly and religion.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Free speech, free book / Jan. 6 and the First / ‘That does not seem right’

Free speech, free book. The Free Speech Center is offering teachers a new book to help them teach about the Bill of Rights …
  … especially on Constitution Day, which rolls around again Friday.
 Download the book here.
 The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s annual civics study concludes that the political turmoil of recent months has left Americans much better informed than ever about the three branches of government.

On campus …

‘We are essentially legally prevented from punishing, suspending or expelling students who say or write something many of us find insulting, derogatory and disrespectful.’ Days after contentious campus confrontations between students and preachers making offensive, racist and homophobic statements, Colorado State University pledges that it “will always do what is within the letter of the law to … disavow any speech that does not conform to our Principles of Community.”
 A law professor who’s written a biography of former American Civil Liberties Union general counsel Morris Ernst concludes that “in the decade before World War II, no one did more … to extend legal protections to literature, art, theater, and movies.”

Jan. 6 and the First. Documents reviewed by CNN detail how the Department of Homeland Security used the First Amendment in the months before the Capitol insurrection to restrict the flow of intelligence reports about “election-related threats.”
 The Capitol Police chief says fencing is coming back to the Capitol ahead of a Saturday rally for the insurrectionists, but he pledges “to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest.”

‘Satire will always be protected as free speech.’ That’s a satirical website’s response to an Olney, Md., baseball team’s legal complaint about a piece mocking it with an allusion to the porn-centric OnlyFans website.
The Takoma Torch’s letter to the team ends with “cc: Barbara [sic] Streisand,” a reference to the Streisand Effect—in which an attempt to prevent information from circulating instead draws publicity to it.

‘This bizarre law violates … the First Amendment.’ A conservative group is going to court against Montana’s “clean campaign” law, requiring candidates be notified of election mailers criticizing them.
A federal judge has blocked Florida’s “anti-riot” law, on grounds it allowed criminal charges against people protesting peacefully and others who happen innocently to be in the area of a demonstration turned violent.
Prosecutors are seeking to limit any talk of the First Amendment or free speech in the forthcoming trial of a Black Lives Matter protester arrested in Tampa during a 4th of July march last year.’

‘This … forces websites to host obscene, anti-Semitic, racist, hateful, and otherwise awful content.’ Social media organizations are challenging a new Texas law forbidding the largest social media companies from removing users or their posts based on their political viewpoints.

‘That does not seem right.’ A UConn Law School professor reacts to a judge’s order that a blogger who frequently criticizes Hartford police turn over his laptop and cellphone in a lieutenant’s effort to ID and sue commenters—allegedly fellow cops—who’ve accused him of racism.
CNET warns that a phone that promises to prioritize “free speech and privacy” above anything else smells like a scam.

Thanks to Chris Koenig, who made this edition better.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Banned by Twitter / ‘Dead on arrival’ / Hate spate

Banned by Twitter. A tweet condemning COVID-19 vaccinations has gotten author Alex Berenson—dubbed by The Atlanticthe pandemic’s wrongest man” (April link)—permanently booted off the service.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson is encouraging Berenson to “sue the crap” out of Twitter on First Amendment grounds …
 … but, as Raw Story notes, “Twitter is not a government entity, and thus they can do whatever they want on their platform.”

‘Power … nearly incomprehensible.’ A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial concludes federal antitrust laws should be changed to rein in Facebook, which has pushed society into “territory not envisioned by those who crafted … the First Amendment.”
An Ohio court has tossed a man’s complaint that Facebook violated his free-speech rights by suspending his account after he posted a picture of President Biden’s son Hunter with two prostitutes.
Pulitzer-winning columnist Mary Schmich explains how her departure from the Chicago Tribune condemned her to “Facebook hell.”

‘Dead on arrival.’ Legal experts tell the Courthouse News Service that Donald Trump’s class-action suits against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are doomed.
New York University research concludes Trump’s tweets that were blocked for conveying election misinformation nevertheless wound up on other companies’ sites.
Experts tell Politico that seven Capitol Police officers’ lawsuit against Trump—accusing him and others of conspiring for the Jan. 6 insurrection—faces “an uphill battle … due to broad First Amendment protections accorded to speech on political topics.”
The New York Times looks ahead to this fall’s Supreme Court session, in which justices will consider whether government censure of elected officials—seemingly on the rise in the pandemic—constitutes a form of free speech or a First Amendment threat.

‘Deprived of their First Amendment rights.’ Ruling for three homeless men, a federal judge has concluded Alabama’s solicitation and begging statutes “criminalize panhandling and arguably form unconstitutional restrictions on protected speech.”
Another federal judge is ordering Oklahoma City to pay almost $1 million to lawyers who successfully challenged that town’s panhandling limits.

Food fights. In a further victory for animal-welfare advocates, a federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s finding that a Kansas law threatening criminal penalties for people who take jobs at agricultural facilities to expose abuse violates the First Amendment.
A New York University student, writing in Reason about a ruling in favor of a California company’s right to use butter and cheese to describe vegan products: “Who thought it was a good idea to give the government control over marketing?
Another federal appeals court has refused to block anti-abortion protesters who have been harassing people outside a New York clinic.

Hate spate. The FBI says hate-crime reports nationwide rose last year to their highest level in 12 years …
 … driven mainly by attacks on Asian and Black people.
A Cornell Law professor: Hate-crime laws “do not violate any defensible version of First Amendment freedom of speech.”

On campus …

‘The First Amendment does not provide you an excuse to skip classes to speak, write, assemble or petition for change.’ Freedom Forum senior fellow Gene Policinski offers K-12 students—and their parents—back-to-school counsel on the freedom of speech.
A federal judge has ruled that a Missouri public school didn’t violate the First when it suspended a student who posted a Snapchat video of herself drinking alcohol off-campus.
Virginia’s Supreme Court has upheld the reinstatement of an elementary school gym teacher who said the First Amendment gave him the right to refuse to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

‘1st Amendment retaliation’ / Butter up / Netflix takes the 1st

‘First Amendment retaliation.’ That’s one of the allegations in a federal lawsuit filed today against Kenosha, Wis., authorities by the parents of a man killed when armed civilians and protesters clashed last summer.
The suit complains police “deputized these armed individuals, conspired with them, and ratified their actions by letting them patrol the streets, armed with deadly weapons, to mete out justice as they saw fit.”
A Maryland man is suing the state, complaining it unconstitutionally fired him after his Facebook posts sympathizing with Kenosha homicide suspect Kyle Rittenhouse.

On campus …
Hey, kids! Free speech! The Free Speech Center and the Poynter Institute are teaming up to get First Amendment education tools into college students’ hands.
The Freedom Forum’s Rick Mastroianni encourages college students to embrace the First: “Take a risk and make a new friend who disagrees with you.”
A federal judge has tossed a First Amendment lawsuit filed by a woman voted out of her vice presidency on the San Francisco school board over her anti-Asian tweets.
A Princeton politics professor ponders the First Amendment implications for limits on University of Iowa professors in the pandemic: “You may only make statements regarding mask usage or vaccinations in the context of course material discussions of health-related issues.”

Butter up. A California creamery has won a First Amendment fight in federal court to keep using dairy terms including “butter,” “cheese” and “lactose-free” on its cashew-based products.
A federal appeals court says an Iowa law designed to protect industrial animal farms from undercover investigations is so broad as to violate the First Amendment.
Animal-rights advocates won a similar fight in Arkansas.

What’s covered, what’s not.
A federal appeals court says Indiana’s corrections department didn’t violate a prisoner’s First Amendment rights in blocking a sexually explicit image sent by his fiancĂ©e.
North Dakota’s Supreme Court says the First doesn’t protect a man who sent hundreds of vulgar phone messages to police officers …
 … and a Colorado appeals court says it doesn’t protect a man who sent a musician repeated threatening Facebook messages …

‘Clearly unconstitutional.’ A UCLA law professor is sounding the alarm about a California bill that would threaten jail and fines for those protesting at vaccination sites.
Police have released images of a man sought in connection with a stabbing during a vaccine protest in downtown Los Angeles.

First Amendment ‘weaponization.’ Writing in The Washington Post, a couple of law professors—one from Harvard, one from Boston University—“like the result” of a federal judge’s decision to block a Florida ban on vaccine requirements for cruise ship passengers, but they consider the ruling’s reliance on free-speech rights “worrisome.”

Netflix takes the First. A federal judge says the company’s First Amendment rights won’t keep it from facing a lawsuit filed by an ex-Manhattan prosecutor who says she was defamed as a villain in the docudrama series When They See Us.
Her lawyer cites five scenes that portray her “engaging in coercive and discriminatory conduct … to build a case against innocent young men of color.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Racists’ ‘safe space’ / Historic news / Masks and the 1st

Racists’ ‘safe space.’ A new report from The Center for Countering Digital Hatred cites the free-speech protections of the 1996 Communications Decency Act for enabling Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok to broadly ignore antisemitic posts.
The Center says it reported 714 posts containing “anti-Jewish hatred”—viewed a collective 7.3 million times—and the companies failed to remove 84% of them.
Its report calls for an overhaul of the act’s Section 230.
A former president of the ACLU: 230 “worked very well until the era of platformization … where the gatekeeper function was taken over by these giant tech platforms.”
Republican-sponsored legislation would force the White House to disclose its requests for social media companies to censor content—especially about COVID-19 vaccines—that it considers “disinformation.”

On campus …

‘Will the Constitution fail teachers?’ A University of Florida law professor anticipates lawsuits over bans on the teaching of critical race theory—and spells out what might hold up and what might not.
An Ohio State University professor emeritus of English: Attacks on critical race theory threaten democracy.
A federal appeals court has denied immunity to University of Iowa officials who, in the words of TechDirt’s Tim Cushing, “banned a Christian student group just because they didn’t like it.”
Commenting on that case, columnist George Will labels academia “a compound of moral arrogance and political authoritarianism.”
A federal appeals court in Ohio has ruled that a citizen can’t be kicked out of a public meeting just for offending, antagonizing or criticizing a governing body or its members during a public-comment period.

Historic news. The new president and CEO of The Associated Press is Daisy Veerasingham—the first woman, the first person of color and the first person from outside of the United States to hold that job.
From the AP’s account: “Her appointment speaks to the changing portrait of the AP, where 40% of the company’s revenue, double what it was 15 years ago, is now generated outside of the United States.”

‘The First Amendment does not protect only speech that inoffensively and artfully articulates a person’s point of view.’ A California appeals court has struck down a law that threatened fines and jail time for nursing home workers who intentionally failed to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns.
The co-founder of an anti-animal-products nonprofit warns that the First Amendment is under siege by the meat industry.

‘F**k Biden’ sign survives. A Donald Trump supporter has won an appeal to keep delivering that profane message from her New Jersey home.
New York Times readers took issue with an editorial defending “every American’s right to curse the president.”

Masks and the First. Utah Sen. Mike Lee suggests government mandates requiring people to wear masks as protection against COVID-19 violate the right to free speech.
Wonkette’s Jamie Lynn Crofts on Republicans’ suit against a rule that U.S. House members wear masks: “This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen.”

‘The right to free speech applies to the right to ask for help.’ The ACLU is among those raising a flag about the Peoria, Ill., City Council’s consideration of a crackdown on panhandlers.
Street preachers who were restricted from criticizing a gay-pride event in Tennessee are taking their case to a federal appeals court.

Rat rising. The National Labor Relations Board says the giant inflatable rat that labor activists have deployed to protest non-union businesses nationwide is protected speech.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

‘An important step forward’ / Posthumous win / ‘Students don’t need a permit’

‘An important step forward.’ Hailing the Justice Department’s new limits for government spying on journalists’ phone records and emails, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University nevertheless tells The New York Times it’s “crucial” that Congress write those rules into law.
The new policy includes broad exceptions, including cases when reporters have “used criminal methods … to obtain government information.”

‘We cannot … say everything and anything is protected speech.’ So ruled a municipal judge in New Jersey, ordering a woman to remove “F*** Biden” lawn signs.
But a law professor tells the Times he’ll be “stunned” if that ruling survives appeal.

Posthumous win. A federal appeals court has given a now-deceased documentary filmmaker a First Amendment victory, ruling that a St. Louis police officer who forcefully arrested him during a protest isn’t entitled to qualified immunity.
Ex-employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency and the Director of National Intelligence have lost an appeals court fight contending their First Amendment rights were compromised by requirements that they submit copies of their manuscripts to the government for pre-publication review.

On campus …
‘Students don’t need a permit.’ A conservative group is suing the University of Alabama over an outdoor events policy requiring that students request approval to speak three days in advance, with clearance subject to the university’s approval.
A federal appeals court has declined to grant a Texas high school teacher qualified immunity in a lawsuit alleging he retaliated against a then-student who refused to stand, salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.