First Amendment

Judge Says 'Fuck Biden' Signs Are Obscenity and Orders Their Removal

Plus: Facebook blamed for missed Biden vaccine goal, court sides with CDC in cruise ship battle, and more...


Judge to First Amendment: Fuck you. A Garden State municipal court judge says "fuck Biden" signs in a woman's front yard are illegal. But U.S. Supreme Court precedent says otherwise.

Last Thursday, Roselle Park Municipal Court Judge Gary Bundy ordered a local homeowner to take down profane flags critical of President Joe Biden that are displayed in her front yard. Three of the flags say "Fuck Biden." Bundy says if they're not removed, the homeowner will face fines of $250 per day.

Bundy claims the signs violate the area's ordinance against obscenity—and seems oblivious to the fact that the law runs afoul of the First Amendment if applied in this way.

The Roselle Park ordinance defines obscenity as anything that "appeals to the prurient interest; depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct as hereinafter specifically defined, or depicts or exhibits offensive nakedness as hereinafter specifically defined; and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."

In defending the ordinance and its use to censor the anti-Biden signs, Bundy pulls out the time-tested censor talking point: "Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right. It is clear from state law and statutes that we cannot simply put up the umbrella of the First Amendment and say everything and anything is protected speech."

It is true that not all speech is protected by the First Amendment, and obscenity is considered an exception. But obscenity cannot be defined simply as "anything that offends the sensibilities of government officials," which seems to be what the judge is going by here.

(Bundy also seems to think permissible speech in this country should turn on what we would ask children to spell in spelling bees. "We just had the National Spelling Bee," Bundy said when handing down his ruling, according to "That word was not one of the words that the kids spell out.")

This all runs contrary to what the U.S. Supreme Court has previously said on the matter. In Cohen v. California, the Court held that a jacket emblazoned with "Fuck the Draft" was OK, even when worn inside a courthouse, and its wearer could not be convicted of disturbing the peace.

"Cohen v. California was actually a closer call, because it involved wearing a 'Fuck the Draft' jacket into a public courthouse, where the government has some extra latitude to set rules of decorum. The sign in this case was on the woman's own property," points out the Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez, noting on Twitter that it is "one of the Supreme Court's most famous First Amendment cases" and that courts have recognized the right to much more offensive forms of speech, including cross burning, swastika banners, signs saying "God Hates Fags," and yelling "fucking pigs" at police officers.

"Particularly depressing," he adds, "to see an actual judge engaging in the kind of hand-wavey First Amendment pseudo-analysis I associate with Twitter trolls: 'Well, free speech isn't an ABSOLUTE right, therefore let's just assume this instance I don't like is one of the exceptions…'"


"Facebook is not the reason [vaccine] goal was missed." Having failed at meeting its vaccination goals, the Biden administration is apparently casting about for places to lay the blame and settled on Facebook and other social media companies. Facebook is pushing back. From The New York Times:

In a blog post on Saturday, Facebook called on the administration to stop "finger-pointing" and laid out what it had done to encourage users to get vaccinated. The social network also detailed how it had clamped down on lies about the vaccines, which officials have said led people to refuse to be vaccinated.

"The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies," Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of integrity, said in the post. "The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased."

Mr. Rosen added that the company's data showed that 85 percent of its users in the United States had been or wanted to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. While President Biden had set a goal of getting 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4, which the White House fell short of, "Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed," Mr. Rosen said.


Judge sides with CDC in Florida cruise ship fight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can set rules for cruise ships, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit says. From Politico:

A late-night order from a federal appeals court Saturday dealt a major setback to Florida's effort to lift restrictions the federal government imposed on the cruise ship industry in order to prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus.

A panel of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to stay an order a federal judge in Tampa issued last month blocking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's framework for allowing cruises to resume. The cruise business was abruptly shuttered by federal order in March 2020 following a series of mass infections aboard large ships.


JAMA Pediatrics has retracted a controversial study suggesting masks could be dangerous for children.

• Los Angeles County sheriffs say they won't enforce the return of the county's mask mandate.

• Nonreligious people are less likely to be vaccinated, according to a new poll from Data Progress:

• "The revelation that a documentary filmmaker used voice-cloning software to make the late chef Anthony Bourdain say words he never spoke has drawn criticism amid ethical concerns about use of the powerful technology," reports the Associated Press.

• According to CNBC, the top states for business are Virginia, North Carolina, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, and Ohio. Read more about the methodology here.

• French health workers are protesting forced vaccinations.

• Are Democrats trying to kill highways?