No "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" No Peace

One of the most inane attempts at restricting speech in recent memory goes before the Supreme Court today: the dread case of "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" v. stuffed-shirt school administrators direct from Central Casting (aided and abetted by the Bush Justice Department).

Our story thus far, as the Cincinnati Enquirer editorializes:

A federal case involving an Alaska student's free-speech rights touches on issues that hit close to home here. As the New York Times reported this weekend, Joseph Frederick unfurled a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" during an Olympic torch procession in 2002.

It was off school property, though during school time, and principal Deborah Morse ordered him to take it down. He refused, she tore it down and suspended him, so he sued. Morse objected to the sign's apparent advocacy for marijuana. Frederick said it was simply taken from a snowboard slogan to be "meaningless and funny" for the TV cameras - a typical teen prank.

This seems to be much ado about very little, but it has reached the Supreme Court as a test of previous court rulings over the rights of school administrators to limit student speech when it conflicts with the school's "educational mission." Those principles were in play in our area with a recent flap over an article in a student publication at Princeton High School critical of the school's football program.

Whether you think a student ought to or should be allowed to advocate drugs, even in apparent jest and even away from school, is one thing. But the government here is arguing something far more sweeping - that administrators have the right to ban virtually any speech that conflicts with the "educational mission," and that they have the right to define that mission as they wish.

As with too many First Amendment issues, the Bush administration is arguing to restrict rights. The so-called "religious right" supports Frederick, despite his sign's irreverent "Jesus" reference, because they are concerned, as counsel Jay Alan Sekulow writes, that public schools "face a constant temptation to impose a suffocating blanket of political correctness upon the educational atmosphere."

That's a valid concern. Schools pay lip service to diversity, but that doesn't always extend to diversity of opinion or ideology. Education is not homogenization.

Whole thing here.

Regardless of how the case actually plays out, this much is a fait accompli: When you're lost the Cincinnati Enquirer, as reliably anti-hippie and non-prescription drug use as any paper in the country, on this issue, you've lost heartland America.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    This happened in Alaska? Possession of less than an ounce of pot is legal in your home in Alaska according to the NORML website today.

    There is a story in the bible where jesus speaks harshly to a person for there lack of hospitality after he was invited inside.(Luke7:44-45) Wouldnt our Lord be just as offended at not being offered a bowl? The kids were doing their christian duty.

    can I get an amen?

  • ||

    Like everything else, this banner probably also violates the McCain-Feingold Act (BCRA).

  • ||

    Oh, amen.

  • skippy||

    I can't believe they're going after this kid for daring to speak his (wildly underdeveloped) mind. I thought this was America. My mistake.

    You know, I can think of an easy way to improve school governance.

  • ||

    "Education is not homogenization"

    This statement is the opposite of my experience.

    In all, though, I'd like to think that dragging this stupid thing all the way to the Supreme Court is more educational than anything these kids are likely to learn in the classroom. They get life-long lessons about the pettiness of people in authority, the willingness of the Federal government to meddle in state affairs, and the intolerance of heretical sentiments.

  • ||

    The so-called "religious right" supports Frederick, despite his sign's irreverent "Jesus" reference, because they are concerned, as counsel Jay Alan Sekulow writes, that public schools "face a constant temptation to impose a suffocating blanket of political correctness upon the educational atmosphere."

    Really? They're not my fist choice of bedfellows. I'd just be happy not to have them lined up on the other side for once.

    I use to get excited when the SCOTUS took up cases like this. Because I thought "This is a slam-dunk. There's only one way this can go and it's just a matter of how far." Now I tremble at the prospect of yet another Constitutional-rights-trampling tool of oppression getting sanctified by the highest court.

    and an amen.

  • Pete Guither||

    Full details on the case with quotes and all the briefs available here.

    Ken Starr in his brief complained that "the court of appeals substituted its unforgiving libertarian worldview for the considered judgment of school officials."

  • Puh-leeze||

    a suffocating blanket of political correctness upon the educational atmosphere."

    Really? They're not my fist, choice of bedfellows


    Hey, it's kinda early for this kinda talk.

  • ||

    A High School, I would think, the principal would be more concerned about the kid skipping skool.

  • ||

    Education is not homogenization.

    Yes, it is. It shouldn't be but in practical terms, it is.

  • ||

    Crist, the school let the students out to watch the Olympic Torch run. "And this is how those little shits repay us!"

    At my HS graduation, the principal was drunk, and I announced it to the 1000 or so people in attendance. What were they going to do? Not let me graduate? BFD.

    Let's hear it for stupid high-school pranks.

  • ||

    "Ken Starr in his brief complained that "the court of appeals substituted its unforgiving libertarian worldview for the considered judgment of school officials."

    Allowing people to express themselves as they see fit= unforgiving libertarian worldview.

    Telling people to do as they're told = considered judgement.

    At what point did the students become school property?

  • ||

    I use to get excited when the SCOTUS took up cases like this. Because I thought "This is a slam-dunk. There's only one way this can go and it's just a matter of how far."

    Amen to that, as well. Kelo scared the shit out of me. The next thing you know, this court will rule against people who violate the civil rights of NYPD's batons while they are being held in custody.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    At what point did the students become school property?

    When parents no longer wanted responsibility.

  • ||

    TPG wins the thread

  • ||

    "When you're lost the Cincinnati Enquirer"
    typo.
    Should have been "you've."

    I was expecting the sentence to read: When you're lost LIKE the Cincinnati Enquirer is lost...

  • ||

    Kelo scared the shit out of me.

    I forget. Was Kelo before or after the Supremes gave McCain-Feingold the Constitutional stamp of approval?

  • Andy||

    Wait - I don't get it... was the sign on school property? Was it during school hours? Anyone been following this and want to spare me the trouble of digging up the details?

  • ||

    Really? They're not my fist choice of bedfellows.

    Warren, you really shouldn't have "fist" within three words of "bedfellows.

  • bill||

    I wonder if anyone has mentioned to these people that other things besides pot can be smoked in a bong. If you try to buy a bong in a store and imply that it is for anything other than tobacco they will throw you out.

  • poco||

    Yeah, but you also might get thrown out of a head shop just for calling it a bong. The legally preferred term is "water pipe", the implication being that "bong" necessarily connotes something to smoke pot with, and thus illegality.

  • ||

    Was Kelo before or after the Supremes gave McCain-Feingold the Constitutional stamp of approval?

    I forget, or I never knew. Do you see a connection?

    you really shouldn't have "fist" within three words of "bedfellows.

    "Fisting Federal Bedfellows" the latest from the Gov't Porn collection. Oh wait, that's another thread.

  • Karen||

    Go to www.choosejesusrightnow.com & click on BUMPER STICKERS.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement