Free Speech

Teenager Threatened with Arrest for Posting About Being Sick with Covid-19

She thinks she was -- but the police thought she wasn't (based on a negative test).

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Scott Shackford posted at Reason about this Friday; I had meant to blog about it, but it slipped my mind. Here's an excerpt:

A family in Oxford, Wisconsin, is suing the local sheriff's department after a patrol sergeant threatened to arrest a teenage girl for disorderly conduct for posting on Instagram about being infected with COVID-19.

Amyiah Cohoon, 16, is a student at Westfield Area High School in Westfield, Wisconsin…. According to this lawsuit, … [s]he was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection with "symptoms consistent with COVID-19," according to the lawsuit.

Cohoon went home and posted on Instagram letting people know that she had COVID-19 and was in self-quarantine. Her condition worsened and she was brought to the hospital for treatment. She posted again about the experience on Instagram. Finally, they were able to test her, but the test came back negative. According to the lawsuit, doctors told her it was likely she missed the window for testing positive, but she probably did have COVID-19, despite the test results. (False negative results have been an ongoing issue in accurately diagnosing infections.)

Some precedents suggest that public hoaxes about supposed dangers (e.g., deliberately falsely saying "I have coronavirus, and I was just in this store with all these other people") are punishable, but I'm pretty confident that this would be limited to knowing lies: Simply saying that one has a disease when one sincerely believes this is so, even if it's not certain, remains constitutionally protected. And certainly accurate reports of having a disease are protected, even if people find them disturbing. In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens with the lawsuit.

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  1. Were the laws used to prosecute these cases (which I understand are “inducing panic” laws) ever intended to apply to cases with facts like this? Bomb threats are much different than claiming something on Facebook. It seems from my casual non-lawyer perspective that it’s potentially unconstitutional to apply these laws to situations which don’t involve While coronavirus is an emergency in one sense, it’s not an emergency like a fire, shooting, bomb etc. I’ve noticed that inducing panic statutes seem to have the latter category of emergency in mind.

    A key element that applies to bomb threats (or dare I say “falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater”, as much as that hypothetical is overused) is the imminence of danger and the demand of an immediate response. Plus, in the case of bomb threats, there’s actual malice intended to cause an evacuation or other harms. That’s different than this case, where any “distress or panic” she is causing (which is dubious in the first place) can be mitigated by the police or the school principal making an announcement that she didn’t actually test positive (i.e. counterspeech), and plus the purpose of her speech is not to cause people to panic. It seems like a gross violation of the first amendment for public officials to suppress scary information that makes their job harder, even if they think that information is false.

    To take it one step further, say someone advocates use of an actual snake oil to cure coronavirus on Facebook. Say they’re negligent regarding the truth of their speech, but they are not personally benefiting from their advocacy (so fraud doesn’t apply, from my understanding). Is such speech protected by the first amendment? Does it change if they’re advocating for something harmful (e.g. bleach) versus something harmless (e.g. salt water), or if they are knowingly lying? And if that’s illegal, how do you distinguish from that and, for example, promoting hydroxychloroquine, which hasn’t been proven. My guess is that the Constitution does protect such speech, since false speech isn’t unprotected under U.S. v. Alvarez and the falsehoods can quite easily be countered through opposing speech. Indeed it seems somewhat similar to U.S. v. Alvarez where many would conclude there is harm but nonetheless there are less restrictive ways of countering it. I believe someone was prosecuted in South Africa for this so it’s not a stretch it could come up in the U.S.

    Maybe that’s too many questions for you to cover, sorry if I rambled. But I’d appreciate your expertise, or if you have further reading on this topic.

    1. In the first paragraph, I didn’t complete a sentence: it should read “situations which don’t involve immediate harm”.

    2. I look at this as firefighters in full gear, hauling a charged hose, tell her that the building is on fire and to get out — and she repeats the message to others. She says “firefighters told me that the building is on fire” — that’s a far different thing from falsely shouting “fire”…

      Now the firefighters may be wrong — a late ignition on an oil burner can (and often does) fill a building full of smoke, and defective florescent light ballasts are almost as effective. But that’s the Fire Department’s issue — you don’t punish people for obeying the Fire Department….

      The hospital — the licensed, accredited “experts” said that THEY THOUGHT that she had the Wuhan Virus — it’s the same thing. This was truly outrageous and than the Sheriff losing the next election (which well might happen) there won’t be any accountability on the level of what it should be. (I’d like to see the cops go to jail.)

      1. What Professor Volokh is overlooking is that this had evolved out of a school trip to Florida and that the school and health department conspired to silence her. To silence her (reportedly) truthful report of a fact — what licensed medical personnel had told her. (It isn’t that the public health nurse also examined her…)

        I’d argue that the school both libeled her and violated her FERPA rights — this is complete and utter bullbleep.

        But being forced to deny truth at gunpoint — which is what happened here — is something that ought not happen in America.

        “That evening the family would discover that a school administrator sent out an alert to families accusing Cohoon of making it up and assuring families that any information of infection was just a rumor. “Let me assure you there is NO truth to this,” the message read. “This was a foolish means to get attention and the source of the rumor has been addressed. This rumor had caught the attention of our Public Health Department and she was involved in putting a stop to this nonsense.”

        1. Good grief. Got some agenda or something?

          “What Professor Volokh is overlooking ….”

          You overlooked a few other things he is overlooking:

          Coriolis effect
          Migration patterns of hermit crabs
          Fall colors
          Unemployment of runway models during lockdowns

          1. I should have worded that better — and I did *not* mean to imply that he intentionally omitted it, only that I consider it a relevant fact to explain the context of the situation. Here is the relevant line from the AP story:

            “Her parents also contacted multiple staff at the school to warn other parents whose children had been on a spring break trip to Florida with her between March 7 and March 15.“[emphasis added]

            There’s 296 students in her high school — I’ve taught in one even smaller and I’ve seen parents silenced. Not to this extent, but the politics behind this is screaming out to me and, yes, it upsets me.

        2. Marquette County has a population of 15,404, Oxford is 859.

          While no school district really wants the parents to know what is going on, small school districts are notorious in this regard — and it is my belief that *other* parents (whose children went on the same trip to Florida) might start thinking that *their* children might also have the Wuhan Virus — and well might.

          What will be interesting is when an accurate/accepted/approved antibody test comes out and this girl is found to actually have had the virus. I doubt that either the school or public health folk will be surprised — they did pretty much the same thing that the CCP did in Wuhan itself.

        3. You forgot about the BLATANT Slanderous HIPPA violation. How did that cop know what her test said and how did he conclude that meant that she had not had the virus? He publicly disseminated protected information to intentionally discredit her.

      2. Sure, I think the facts of the case are going to make it so most people here agree the police’s actions are grossly wrong and not much more than an a abuse of power. I guess where I was going is trying to derive the legal theory that underlies this. If her statements “debatable” and were just wrong would she still be protected?

        Also, re: “professor Volokh is overlooking”, he specifically said this is a violation of the first amendment, from his analysis.

  2. Given the questionable results of testing at the time, many false positives and false negatives, she was expressing an opinion, as was the officer.
    No way in hell this was disorderly conduct.

    1. NO! She wasn’t even “expressing her opinion”!

      Instead, she was repeating what medical experts had told her. How is that different from a reporter repeating what the police told him?

      Isn’t it protected speech to say that “Sheriff So-in-so stated that the accident was caused by ‘excessive speed'” — if the Sheriff actually did say that? Likewise, the hospital said….

  3. Making terroristic statements certainly is illegal but I don’t think it is applicable in this situation because she doesn’t imply any attempt to spread the contagious virus to others. In fact, she states that the self-quarantined when she suspected infection with COVID-19. However, it is unfortunate that the US doesn’t go far enough to police speech. Civilized countries like Canada recognize that racist speech is hate speech that devalues human life and is inherently threatening. I wish the US would go further and act like Germany by jailing anti-Semites who deny the Holocaust. Some speech is just too dangerous to allow in a civilized, modern country.

    1. “Some speech is just too dangerous to allow in a civilized, modern country.”

      The big problem there is, who defines what speech is “too dangerous”. Typically, it’s the people in power who define it, and the define it in such a way as to protect the status quo. And sure, it sounds great to ban “hate speech” as you currently define it. But what about other “hate speech”? Are certain comments that target religion “hate speech”?

      Let’s go a bit further here, back to the early 1990’s. Were gay marriage comments in the U.S. “hate speech” against traditional marriage and traditional religion? Could they have been defined as such? Certainly other countries like Iran would currently define such pro-gay marriage comments as “hate speech” and been used to suppress any talk about gay rights (let alone gay marriage).

      When you regulate speech like this, and seek to suppress speech, it drives it underground. As long as you agree with it, it may seem fine. But for many (for example, gay populations in certain countries), you may not. The long term damage done by suppressing speech is almost certainly worse than letting people have their speech in 99% of cases

      1. Even without hate speech laws, speech can be heavily suppressed when the culture doesn’t allow differing opinions. For example, the CEO of my company is a homosexual who has the support of the LGBTQ community. I think sex reassignment surgery is nothing more than mutilation of the human body and it is used on severely mentally ill people who need psychiatric care. Should I make my thoughts known to the public and risk being fired or should I shut up and let nature take its course?

        1. Now, you’ve shifted from laws, and enforcement in a legal sense, to cultural norms and cultural pressure.

          Cultural norms and cultural pressure will always be present to a certain extent. Question is, how much is it accepted by the community at large, as a method to exert pressure. Are your views actively disrupting the workplace, or are they being expressed in your private life. Rather than use your homosexual example, let’s use an example closer to reality.

          The CEO of your Silicon Valley firm is a prominent Democrat, and donates extensively to the Democratic party. He is firm in his beliefs. He decides to obtain a list of his employees, and see which are registered Republicans. He then goes and fires all of them.

          Cultural norms here are shifting. Typically, this would be considered unacceptable. But increasingly, in some areas, this type of pressure is acceptable. It probably shouldn’t be, but it is in certain areas.

          1. > being expressed in your private life
            Private as being solely expressed to myself or just outside work?

            >see which are registered Republicans.
            I think some jurisdictions do protect political affiliation as a protected class. More reason to question why we have protected classes to begin with. Say something abhorrent and you’ll be fired. Express something abhorrent in a religious textbook and you’re protected.

      2. This isn’t even speech — assuming that the medical people said what she said they said, she was merely stating established objective facts. Like saying “today is April 22nd.”

    2. “Some speech is just too dangerous to allow in a civilized, modern country.”

      Support for Marxism and other forms of socialism, for example, should be banned as being hate speech against free-market capitalists. Or advocacy for ‘gun control’ as hate speech against gun owners. Or speech in support of government-run schools as hate speech against home schoolers.

      Those would be my three top “hate speech too dangerous to allow” items, if I believed in such a silly thing.

      1. Good luck convincing the Supreme Court. It has been ruled that sodomites are capable of forming a marriage and if you disagree, then fuck you too.

    3. I wish the US would go further and act like Germany by jailing anti-Semites who deny the Holocaust. Some speech is just too dangerous to allow in a civilized, modern country.

      Totally agree. Why, just the other day some teenager in Colorado posted on Facebook that he didn’t believe the Holocaust happened, and three people in New Jersey dropped dead immediately after reading it. Dangerous, I tell you.

      1. I think the Holocaust is a poorly taught historical event. Seldom does anyone mention that the first people to be systematically murdered under the Third Reich were the mentally disabled. Criticize Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI all you want but one of his relatives was murdered for having Down’s Syndrome. Also, the Nazis were not just anti-Semitic but also anti-Slavic. The murder of millions of Poles, Ukrainians, Russians and others is generally minimized so people can focus solely on the Jewish victims. If I say that the Holocaust narrative is untrue because of these distortions, am I committing thought crime?

        1. They also were Homophobic — “pink triangle”…..

    4. Canada is there for you, mon ami. Here in the land of the free we are guaranteed the right to speak freely. If this offends you, you’re gonna have a bad day.

      Stop trying to make banning “hate speech” happen. It’s never going to happen!

  4. ” However, it is unfortunate that the US doesn’t go far enough to police speech. Civilized countries like Canada recognize that racist speech is hate speech that devalues human life and is inherently threatening. I wish the US would go further and act like Germany by jailing anti-Semites who deny the Holocaust. Some speech is just too dangerous to allow in a civilized, modern country.”

    First – I am personally quite sympathatic to your concerns regarding hate speech.

    However, Who gets to regulate speech – Getting speech approved through the “Ministry of Speech ” causes and will cause far more damage than the elimination of “hate speech”

    1. TOP MEN in the PARTY will regulate speech.

      Not that any of this really matters. Most of the hate speech laws already cover speech that is distasteful to the general public. Say something “hateful” and you’ll find yourself unemployed. With a lack of culture supporting, or at least tolerating, “hate” speech, people self-censor thoughts that might be unsavory to the general public. So I ask: Do we really have free speech without a culture of listening to different and distasteful opinions?

      1. Rabbi, I agree that the government should not prosecute hate speech, but I’m fine with people getting fired for it. The government also isn’t going to prosecute me for showing up at work in my underwear, but doing so would not exactly enhance my career, and it’s the same general principle: Employers have the right to get rid of people who cause them embarrassment, cause clients to go elsewhere, and otherwise are a liability to the company.

        Plus, hate speech is objectively harmful to society. Because of the First Amendment, the government isn’t allowed to notice that, but that doesn’t mean no one else can.

        1. “Employers have the right to get rid of people who cause them embarrassment, cause clients to go elsewhere, and otherwise are a liability to the company.”

          Please apply this logic to African American employees at certain companies during the 1950’s and 1960’s

          1. Then reassess your original statement.

          2. I don’t think there has ever been an issue with getting rid of specific African Americans who are a liability to the company; I myself have fired African Americans over the years. That is not the same thing, however, as a blanket statement that *all* African Americans make objectionable employees, which is what opponents of civil rights laws argued. If I fire an African American for, say, chronic absenteeism, and I then fire a white supremacist employee for saying on facebook that all blacks should be sent back to Africa, in both cases it was specific conduct that got them fired, and not identity.

            1. All blacks should be given reparations in the form of 40 acres and a mule in Liberia. See! It’s not racist now.

              1. After reading the comments precipitated by your blog, Prof. Volokh, do you still wonder why strong law schools are disinclined to hire more movement conservatives?

            2. What you’ve done there is changed the context significantly between the African American and White Supremacist. Let’s edit to put the context more in line, especially in the context of the original statement (IE, 1950’s and 1960’s)

              If I fire an African American for, saying African Americans should have equal voting rights, and I then fire a white supremacist employee for saying on facebook that all blacks should be sent back to Africa, in both cases it was specific conduct that got them fired, and not identity.

              Start to see the issues?

              1. Armchair Lawyer, you’re assuming, whether consciously or not, that “Blacks should have equal voting rights” and “Blacks should be sent back to Africa” are morally equivalent. They’re not. The Klansman and Martin Luther King, Jr. do not occupy the same moral plane. Hitler and the Jews he gassed did not merely have a difference of opinion; one of them really was morally superior to the other.

                I understand the political reality that in the 1950s and 60s (and probably much later than that) there were plenty of people who didn’t see it that way, and the real world answer is that the culture is where the culture is. But thank God we have moved past those days. At this point, people with ugly, racists views do have to take into account the risk that they may be called to account for what they say. Add racism to the long list of things that used to be socially acceptable but thank God no longer are.

                1. He’s not saying they’re morally equivalent at all, he’s saying that at that time, they were both divisive, and liable to make running a business a bit harder.

                  Unfortunately, even now, we don’t have access to a machine that objectively measures morality. The best we have done is widespread social consensus. Given that widespread social consensus has wildly changed on some topics, we know it can be very wrong. Thus using it as a basis for what speech should be protected will get some huge and important false-positives and false-negatives. Pretending that the current social consensus is actually correct in all things is high hubris. Don’t believe me? Wait twenty years.

                  This is, I think, well understood in the case of governmental regulation of speech. When employment is conditioned on not having any socially unacceptable beliefs, there is also some damage, though certainly not to the same extent as government suppression. This changes the trade-offs a bit, but I don’t think it eliminates the problems with overzealous speech suppression through social pressure.

                2. Krychek_2,

                  1. I’m not assuming they are morally equivalent. But, they are both potentially divisive “actions,” as according to your quote. “Employers have the right to get rid of people who cause them embarrassment, cause clients to go elsewhere, and otherwise are a liability to the company.” And when you justify one discrimination using this logic, you enable others to use the same logic to enable their discrimination.

                  2. You give the following quote “I understand the political reality that in the 1950s and 60s (and probably much later than that) there were plenty of people who didn’t see it that way, and the real world answer is that the culture is where the culture is. But thank God we have moved past those days.”

                  However, you miss the point of WHY we moved past those days. We moved past those days BECAUSE we were an open society that allowed a diverse range of viewpoints to be openly talked about, even if a large chunk of society, even a majority of society in some areas disagreed with that viewpoint, and might consider that speech “hateful” or worthy of government or social censorship.

                  That openness was absolutely CRITICAL towards achieving that progress in the 50’s and 60’s. And what you propose is basically shutting down that openness. That those items you consider “hateful” should be either censored, or socially stigmatized to the point of firing. You miss WHY racism is no longer socially acceptable. Because racial equality was openly talked about and discussed. A full censorship/social stigmatization strategy like you would have employed would have shut down any talk of racial equality. How far do you think racial equality would’ve gotten if all those who tried promoting it were instantly fired?

                  An open society willing to discuss viewpoints across a range of topics, willing to protect rights, willing to protect people, even if one finds their views distasteful, is critical to progress. A “hate speech” law or social stigmatization strategy locks in the current views of the elites and powerful, suppressing any views not their own. I may (and do) strongly disagree with the Nazi philosophy, but I’ll defend their right to talk about it, because in defending their rights, we defend everyone’s rights. But when we pick winners and losers, when some people’s speech is hate speech and should be censored, but other people’s speech is OK, in the end we all lose.

                  1. Armchair Lawyer, I misunderstood your argument, and thank you for clarifying.

                    I don’t know how well you remember the 50s and 60s — I lived through them, in the South no less — and in point of fact people were fired from their jobs for supporting racial equality. There were well organized campaigns to boycott and harass businesses that were seen as soft on segregation, or who had employees who were soft on segregation. Google “white citizens councils” and you’ll find plenty. What is happening today is the exact mirror image of what happened then. Then, being pro-equality would get you fired; today, being pro-white supremacist would get you fired. There seems always to have been a consensus that people with unpopular views should suffer for them economically, with the only thing that’s changed being what is the unpopular view. My great uncle owned a hardware store that went out of business shortly after he hired his first black employee. So your question is not hypothetical.

                    And ultimately, I would say that a business owner has no duty to commit economic suicide for the benefit of his employees’ unpopular views. Right up until the point that either the legislature or the courts decides that a particular unpopular viewpoint needs to be protected.

                    One of the things that changed is that the courts began to hold that employment discrimination based on articulating support for black civil rights was itself racial discrimination, and began protecting people who were advocating for civil rights. If I, as a white person, advocated for black equality and got fired, under that line of cases I could sue my employer. The courts said that the purpose of the law was to promote racial equality, and that purpose was furthered by protecting *people* who promoted racial equality.

                    And that way, in theory, businesses wouldn’t have to worry about economic loss from keeping employees with pro-civil-rights viewpoints who expressed them. They could tell their racist customers that it was all the fault of the courts, and besides, a boycott would be pointless since every other business in town was precluded from firing people for that reason too. And, I’m happy with that result.

                    On the day that racists become a protected class, I imagine the same principle would apply to them.

                    1. I have to admit, I am utterly baffled by this train of logic you have going on.

                      I used the African American example because it had direct historical relevance to the critical nature of open society that is willing to practice tolerance, including tolerance of viewpoints in an employment situation. I also used it, because I thought it would resonate with you. I wouldn’t have guessed at your uncle’s situation.

                      And your response is basically this. The business owner has no duty to tolerance and greater society, but only to his clients and business. That, speaking frankly, according to your logic, the uncle was a fool for hiring an African American, never should have done so, and having his business go bankrupt was his just reward for daring to challenge social custom during this time.

                      That social custom is an economic weapon to be utilized against the non-conformists right up until the point when a law gets passed (And perhaps well beyond that, depending on how vigorously the courts decide to defend the law).

                      I’m frankly amazed. I believe in an open, tolerant society, where everybody’s views can be heard. And if the price for that society is needing to give racists their say without economically pummeling them into the ground, then so be it.

                    2. OK, distilled to its essence, here is what I’m proposing:

                      1. The default rule is that in the absence of law to the contrary, a business is within its rights to consider the business first, which may mean getting rid of employees that publicly embarrass the business. The specific context in which we’re having this discussion — civil rights — carries its own baggage, but if instead we were discussing firing an employee for publicly advocating child rape, or reviving the Manson family, or stealing from clients, the point wouldn’t even be in dispute. Employees get fired (or not hired) every day on far less provocation than that.

                      2. Sometimes, as in the case of civil rights, society’s interests become great enough that a law gets passed (or reinterpreted). Thus, all those court decisions that people couldn’t be fired for supporting civil rights. That’s an appropriate legislative and/or judicial decision. That’s really no different from any other situation in which employers are free to do as they like unless the legal system has determined that society’s interests take priority.

                      Still not clear?

                3. “you’re assuming, whether consciously or not, that “Blacks should have equal voting rights” and “Blacks should be sent back to Africa” are morally equivalent”

                  They are.

                  There’s one I agree with and one I don’t — and I’ll be vain enough to argue that all decent people agree with me — but it’s reprehensible speech that deserves protection. After all, people will stand in line overnight and pay good money to hear speech they want to hear — how much are concert tickets going for now?

                  And it might be worth considering that *both* were once official US Government policy — ever hear of the Republic of Liberia?

                  1. ” Sometimes, as in the case of civil rights, society’s interests become great enough that a law gets passed”

                    If I am not mistaken, segregation was the law in the Jim Crow South. Wasn’t Dr. King arrested for violating said laws?
                    Weren’t some of the Freedom Riders charged (and at least one convicted) with violating said laws? Yes, laws….

                    The problem with dictatorships is that everyone thinks that he/she/it will be the dictator, and will be a wise and just dictator. No, presume the opposite….

          3. Please apply this logic to African American employees at certain companies during the 1950’s and 1960’s

            Or to Communists and their sympathizers in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s.

        2. Note that I am living in the Deep South.
          Can I fire a divorced woman?
          Can I fire a woman in an interracial marriage?
          Can I fire a homosexual?
          Can I fire an atheist / Jew / Muslim / etc.?
          Is criticism of sex reassignment surgery / “gender confirmation surgery” hate speech?
          I think my main point also still stands. Without a broad window of tolerated speech, does a lack of hate speech regulations from the government really matter?

          1. For some, that depends on the laws of your particular state, in many states (especially in the South) you can still legally fire people who are divorced (so long as you also fire divorced men) and who are homosexuals. Racial, religious and sex discrimination (which would include being in an inter-racial marriage) are covered by federal law so no, you can’t fire any of them, at least not for those reasons.

            But on your main point, here is our central point of disagreement: You are analyzing it as speech equals speech, that racist speech is merely a different point of view. I’m analyzing it as racist speech is more closely related to repeatedly farting in five star restaurants, dumping your household garbage in public parks, and otherwise being an obnoxious boor. Being an obnoxious boor won’t get you jailed — if it were, my father in law would have spent most of his life in prison — but don’t be surprised if there are collateral consequences.

            1. I still can’t distinguish between when racial speech is hate speech. For example, is it racist to compare European, Asian, and African bone density to study osteoporosis? What about the chances of inheriting Tay-Sachs disease in Orthodox communities? What about a psychologist taking IQ exams for high school students? When does questioning racial differences diverge from inquiry to inquisition?

              1. Rabbi ” For example, is it racist to compare European, Asian, and African bone density to study osteoporosis? What about the chances of inheriting Tay-Sachs disease in Orthodox communities? What about a psychologist taking IQ exams for high school students? When does questioning racial differences diverge from inquiry to inquisition?”

                You just pointed out why your original statement in support for gevernment regulating hate speech is wrong. –
                The ministry of Truth & the ministry of speech will control speech.
                Always bad result

              2. OK, what is the difference between these two statements:

                There is a higher density of evangelical Christians in rural areas.

                Evangelical Christians are more likely to be dishonest than atheists.

                (Please note I am not claiming either of those statements is true; I just made them up for sake of example.)

                The first is merely a neutral demographic statement. It tells us nothing about whether Christians are good people or bad people, and may have entirely legitimate (and non-bigoted) implications for social science.

                The second, however, makes a claim that Christians, as a group, are not as good as people who aren’t Christians. It has zero factual support and is almost certainly the product of someone who is prejudiced against Christians. It is made for no purpose other than to disparage Christians. Furthermore, even if it were true, individual Christians who are honest would still have the right to be judged as honest individuals, rather than as part of a group.

                Do you see the difference?

                1. The first statement would be published in a dry sociology study as part of a Ph.D. candidates thesis. The second statement would be published in the New York Times. Liberals are always implying that conservatives are somehow morally or mentally deficient because no sensible person would support said conservative views.

                  Personally, I think the culture is America has shifted to allow not just criticism but mean spirited ridicule of anyone who falls on the lower end of the progressive totem pole. For instance, comedy insulting whites, Christians, heterosexuals, traditional marriages is perfectly acceptable but don’t dare criticize an “oppressed” person.

                  1. That massive chip on your shoulder notwithstanding, do you at least see how the two statements are different? If so, that should answer your earlier question about what is, and is not, hate speech.

                    1. I can see how statistics can be used to malign a group of people but that doesn’t mean that the statement of the statistic is inherently verboten. Sure, we can attempt to treat every as an individual without bias but human nature recognizes patterns for a reason. If I’m surrounded by my tribe, I feel safe. If I am surrounded by a foreign tribe, I should be cautious.

                    2. But statistics only go so far. If statistics show that a higher percentage of Group X has criminal records, that tells us far less about Group X than you think. Is that statistic true because the police engage in selective enforcement, or because Group X is denied opportunities given to other groups, or because the legislature has criminalized behavior Group X is more likely to engage in? Or, possibly, something really is inherently wrong with Group X. But merely reciting that Group X has felons in greater amounts does not, standing alone, tell us much.

                      I think you have a point that tribalism was at one time an important evolutionary safeguard, but times have changed, and tribalism now does far more harm than good. People developed a taste for sweet foods, which in turn gives us obesity, diabetes and heart disease, because at one time food wasn’t widely available and eating as much fruit as you could was essential to staying alive. As with our dietary habits, conditions have changed, but the old patterns and behaviors persist, even though they are now socially harmful.

                2. Another thing should also be stated. Why are normal people not allowed to jest at other people’s faults but comedians are given free pass? This professional comedian class reminds me of the professional press class of people who know better and are entitled to more leeway than the working class scum of America.

  5. I’m surprised the plaintiff’s lawyers listed the plaintiff’s personal address in the lawsuit.

    Is that normal?

    1. Yes.

      Ohio Civil Rule 10(A):

      “In the complaint the title of the action shall include the names and addresses of all the parties”

  6. “TOP MEN in the PARTY will regulate speech.”

    “All blacks should be given reparations in the form of 40 acres and a mule in Liberia.”

    Folks, you are feeding the troll.

    1. It’s probably a AI bot aggregating all the worst lines from 8chan.

      1. I like the link to the ADL in his username as well.

        1. I find the social dynamic interesting. Is it that the more people reply to him, the more people want to reply?

          1. I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my case, I’m replying to him on the off chance that there might be someone lurking who has never actually thought through any of these questions, so I want to be sure that his questions are being answered.

            1. Does the Devil deserve an advocate?

              1. Another example of a formulaic response that looks like the output of an algorithm. There is simply no personality behind this actor.

              2. No, Siri does not deserve an advocate.

              3. Fine. Please give us the argument you would make if you wanted to advocate in favor of Auschwitz. Or child rape. Or the Manson family. Or swindling old ladies out of their life savings. I’m listening.

            2. Krycheck_2: fair enough, but remember the adage that the way to get more of something is to reward it – and trolls want responses.

  7. Over the years, I have noticed a tendency to oversensationalize potentially routine cases when hair-trigger issues arise. People make unfounded complaints all the time; authorities nonetheless often have to do something to investigate these complaints. I am starting to conclude that the mere initiation of an investigation shouldn’t necessarily be a trigger for starting the blog wars. Perhaps the investigation will conclude there was nothing there. Occassionally, “unfounded” complaints turn out to actually have a basis.

    What really happened here? The teenager made a facebook post. Someone complained. A police officer investigated. No arrests were actually made. Noone seems to have been actually harmed. What did the police officer actually say and do?

    Perhaps there is less to this than the headline suggests.

    Sometimes it’s better to let incidence pass and not bang the war drums to make big symbollic issues over them. It’s a living. But is it really contributing to society?

    1. They threatened to arrest her — and her father.

      As far as I’m concerned, its a distinction without a difference between that and actually arresting her had she not waived her civil rights. Or are civil rights meaningless?

      1. Assuming the complaint is true, then yes. The only possible defense I can think of is to deny the allegations, and insist that the police merely politely requested that the girl take down her post — which of course they’re entitled to do, just as anyone else is.

    2. “What did the police officer actually say and do?”

      Well, the post links to the complaint, maybe we can find out.

      ” Sergeant Klump stated that he had direct orders from Sheriff Konrath to demand that Amyiah delete this post, and, if she did not, to cite Amyiah and/or her parents for disorderly conduct and to “start taking people to jail.””

      “Sergeant Klump’s incident report, a true and accurate copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit 6, confirms Defendants’ unlawful actions. Klump’s report explains that “Sheriff Konrath advised me he wished for me to respond to the residence and have the post removed from her social media.” The report also states that Klump “advise[d] Richard [Cohoon] that if they were not willing to take the post down, that there would be the possibility of a County Ordinance Disorderly Conduct or being arrested for Disorderly Conduct.”

      So it wan’t just an investigation, the responding deputy was instructed to have her remove the post, and he did so by threatening to arrest her and her parents.

      1. The result was to suppress information about the pandemic, and it’s possible that people were exposed to the virus as a result of the sheriff’s actions.

        1. Potential Liability?

  8. Just a reminder that engaging with pure trolls is not actually required by law.

    1. Tradition dictates that they’re to be spit upon, but currently that could be problematic.

  9. At what point does a statement to a person become a threat that creates civil liability? It is obviously terribly inappropriate, but there never was any exercise of power here; I don’t see how it is anything by a mere statement with no legal consequences behind it.

    What is this person suing for but her own ignorance of the law and the police power that flows from it?

    1. Imagine a police officer threatening to arrest everyone in an abortion clinic unless they shut it down. Think that might be problematic?

      1. Better, imagine the local police going into a Synagogue and threatening to arrest everyone who didn’t publicly proclaim the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Think that might be problematic?

    2. An order (as opposed to a request) from a policeman, especially when backed up by an explicit threat of enforcement, is an exercise of state power.

    3. What?

      The girl removed the post. If you were engaged in a legal activity and the police said, “Stop that or I’ll arrest you,” and you stopped the legal activity, according to your statement the police did nothing wrong!

      So if a black man were legally protesting and a racist cop threatened to let a snarling K9 loose on him unless he stopped, the police did nothing wrong?

  10. Since it was reasonable to assume there was a good chance that she did have the Coronavirus causing enough of a panic for other students to rush out and get tested would make them safer, not less safe. Also, how the hell did the Cop know what her test results were? That is a clear HIPPA violation. He not only got that information illegally he broadcast that protected information publicly AND the public dissemination of that Protected Health information was disseminated in a medically misleading way intended to discredit this girl. No Doctor would look at those facts and say that she did not have the COVID virus, a negative test that was administered outside of the proper testing window due to a shortage of tests is not dispositive. It does not indicate that she did not have the virus, it is medically inconclusive and would be expected to be medically inconclusive. So that was a slanderous release of HIPPA protected medical information.

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