Religion

"If the First Amendment means anything, then school officials cannot prohibit students from handing out gifts with Christmas messages due to the religious content of those messages."

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The Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro describes what's at stake in the case of Morgan v. Swanson, which the Supreme Court may decide to take up this term:

If the First Amendment means anything, then school officials cannot prohibit students from handing out gifts with Christmas messages due to the religious content of those messages. Nonetheless, the Fifth Circuit held en banc that student speech rights are not "clearly established," and that, therefore, two Plano, Texas officials could invoke qualified immunity to shield themselves from liability for doing so….

Student speech rights were clearly established by the foundational student-rights case of Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969), wherein the Court held that student speech cannot be suppressed unless the speech will "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school," subject to limited exceptions. Such exceptions include lewd or vulgar speech, or speech that may reasonably be viewed as advocating unlawful drug use. Certainly the student speech at issue here, which included Christmas greetings written on candy canes, and pencils and other small gifts with messages like "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so," does not fall under those exceptions.

Read all about it here.

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  1. “student speech rights are not “clearly established,” and that, therefore, two Plano, Texas officials could invoke qualified immunity to shield themselves from liability for doing so.”

    So these school officials are to be whip-sawed between litigants claiming violation of church-and-state separation, on the one hand, and litigants advocating censorship, on the other hand.

    If they guess wrong about how the federal courts will assess the situation, they are personally liable to the aggrieved plaintiffs.

    Sounds like time for some Christian charity, not a lawsuit.

    1. litigants alleging censorship, not advocating.

      1. No, sounds like time to stop feeding at the public trough.

        1. Are those parents to blame for being forced to pay for an education in an institution that doesn’t welcome them? Why should they be forced to pay for two educations for each kid? Separation of school and state solves both of the injustices inherent in this situation.

    2. My neighbor just met a bisexual man on —datebi*cOMit’s where for men and women looking for bisexual and bi-curious individuals to meet in a friendly and comfortable environment.
      It’s a nice place for the people who have the same sexual orientation.

  2. “Certainly the student speech at issue here, which included Christmas greetings written on candy canes, and pencils and other small gifts with messages like “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” does not fall under those exceptions.”

    Ilya fails to understand that those geniuses in Plano, Texas were looking at the big picture: if you let kids say “Jesus loves me” then next thing you know they’ll be saying things like “Mohammed loves me” or “Satan loves me” or even “Barack loves me” and God knows we can’t have that.

    BTW Satan does love and he wonders why you never call.

  3. School Prayer: Not ok.
    Praying while in school: ok.

    Some people do not appear to understand the semantics of establish and exercise.

    1. Clearly this case falls under the “…free exercise thereof;” portion of the 1st Amendment. The sad thing is that the citizens of Plano are letting a couple of morons teach their children about civil rights which only makes it easier for them to violate those rights.

      1. No. Your freedom of religion ends at my Islamic ears.

        1. And your burka / chador wearing freedom of religion ends at my eyes.

          UGLY. NO, FUGLY!

          1. Actually, there’s a few folks around here who could use a burka. Just sayin’….

  4. Another religion thread.

    *sigh*

    1. My teenager’s religious beliefs: Apathetic Agnostic Inertia AKA “don’t know, don’t care, staying there.”

      1. ^see handle for short form^

  5. the Court held that student speech cannot be suppressed unless the speech will “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school,” subject to limited exceptions. Such exceptions include lewd or vulgar speech, or speech that may reasonably be viewed as advocating unlawful drug use.

    Not understanding the “exceptions” part.

    1. Let’s look at this carefully.

      Student speech cannot be suppressed unless the speech will “disrupt the school.” However, there are forms of otherwise disruptive speech, known as “exceptions,” that cannot be suppressed. These include lewd speech or [actually, and] advocating drug use. Thus, “Fuck you, smoke weed” may not be suppressed.

      1. That’s what I thought. Guess this is legal “logic”: A reasonable person would understand what is meant.

      2. I think you meant that your example can be suppressed….

        If not, they are saying that the main reason a school might suppress certain speech is if it’s disruptive. Exceptions to that rule, include allowing the government to suppress vulgar speech, even if is not ‘disruptive’.

  6. I have to say, it’s true “that student speech rights are not ‘clearly established'”?if the first amendment meant anything, they would be allowed to advocate bong hits 4 Jesus all they wanted to (and if the fourteenth amendment meant anything, they wouldn’t be forced to be in school where we then force them to give up further rights because they might be “disruptive”).

    These people are wrong and might suck, but the one thing clearly established is that we don’t treat kids in public schools like real human beings, so I really don’t see why they shouldn’t be shielded from liability here.

    All standard ancap disclaimers apply.

    1. Why not?

      Does the first amendment provide that the king’s men can be shielded from liability when they interfer with another’s exercise thereof?

      There is no distinction made in the first amendment for school children. If the framers and ratifiers had intended to immunize any of the king’s men from liability, they would have so said. They did not.

      1. No, but tons of current precedent (which I think is wrong; see disclaimer above) puts public school student rights somewhere around or below the rights of dogs and cats, and other laws/precedents (which I also think are wrong) would immunize these folks from acting accordingly.

        1. Yes, you are right on with the precedents.

          The legal profession does not exactly embrace those who argue first principles, natural rights philosophy, Madison’s admonition that the judiciary is to be an impenetrablw bulwark against each and every usurpation of individual liberty by the executive and legislative branches and the like.

          1. Why (just) one compelling reason to be an anarchist is, what the hell has the constitution done for me lately?

            1. Agreed.

              Particularly when one knows a thing or two about how the damn thing was birthed.

        2. I wonder if anyone’s tried to use that as a defense…
          Defendant: “But I didn’t know it was illegal.”
          Judge: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
          Defendant: “What if I can show precedent?”
          Judge: “Okay, smart guy, tell me one.”
          Defendant: “1)Prosecutorial immunity, 2)…”
          It wouldn’t fly, but I can dream.

  7. Christian sentiments are wholly inappropriate when accompanying gifts distributed in a public school setting!

    They don’t properly reflect the teachings of the true faith if you get me.

    1. Tony is sure devoted to that faith, isn’t he?

      1. Of course you know of my faith. I preach here regularly about the High Church of State.

        1. The only faith Tony abides by, is The Holy Word of St. Keynes.

    1. RIP, Juan.

      May St. Peter be greeting you with a warm embrace and a hearty, “Welcome back!”

      Signed Libertymike’s mother.

  8. Allowing religious expression is not establishment of religion, so long as all religious expression is allowed.

    The whole exercise/establishment debate, which can get sticky, isn’t that tough in this case.

    I’m suspecting the jackboot wannabes at the school started from the premise that they were going to ban non-Christian expressions at their school, and worked backwards from there.

  9. I dunno; I grew up in Plano, went to it’s schools, and still live here. It’s an extremely religious city, with a megachurch on every other corner. I can’t imagine this is part of some sinister plot to bring down Christianity.

    I also went through the Plano school system, and we had Christmas parties & such like all the time (as long as they were put together by the students and not officially sponsored by the school). I have no idea why that would have changed.

    1. I can’t imagine this is part of some sinister plot to bring down Christianity.

      Never assume malice by government officials when simple incompetence explains all the known facts.

      These officials appear to not understand how the First Amendment works — that government can neither establish a single official religion, nor prohibit anyone from practicing their religious beliefs (so long as, for example, the students do not engage in irrelevant religious outbursts unrelated to the lesson being taught, that prevents the teacher from teaching).

      It’s a little complicated, but anyone that high up in school administration ought to understand how this works.

  10. Pastafarians demand an end to the ban on Pizza in schools!

  11. … very silly & clueless to focus on “Student speech rights” under the 1st Amendment– when fundamental “student liberty rights” under the 5th Amendment are trashed daily for all young Americans.

    Compulsory school attendance laws in every state directly violate the 5th Amendment, and similar rights guaranteed in every state constitution.

    “…nor shall any person be… be deprived of life, liberty, or
    property, without due process of law..” {5th Amendment}

    What crimes have students been judicially convicted of… to merit forced school attendance and its major loss of day-to-day personal liberty ?

    Compulsory attendance laws, force all children & teenagers to attend either a public school or a private school certified as suitable by the state bureaucrats. The entire mass of the population has thus been coerced by the government into spending a large portion of their most impressionable years physically in public institutions, under strong, direct government supervision (..hence the very secondary ‘speech-rights’ concern}.

    Fix the 5th Amendment abuse before worrying about the 1st Amendment abuse.

  12. We are the only ones who deserve free-speech rights!

  13. Will Clarence Thomas find that the school has authority in loco parentis which allows them to restrict student expression that he might agree with?

    1. Clarence Thomas has made it pretty clear that he thinks schools can do anything they want when it comes to censoring students. That he regards schools as weird prisons where the Constitution does not exist is his major failing as a Supreme Court Justice.

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