The Volokh Conspiracy

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The Jefferson Muzzles 2017 for 'egregious and or ridiculous affronts to free expression'


The Thomas Jefferson Center (with which I'm involved as a member of the board of trustees) has just released its yearly Jefferson Muzzles. You can see the details here, but here's a summary of the awards (not all are First Amendment violations as such, but all were judged by the center to be improper or excessive reactions to people's expression):

  1. The state government of Illinois for prohibiting donations from medical marijuana businesses to political campaigns or political action committees, and prohibiting candidates from receiving such donations.
  2. The California Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown for passing a law banning online employment databases from listing the ages of actors and actresses.
  3. Bradley County (Tenn.) Sheriff Eric Watson for deleting comments by atheists and blocking atheist commentators from the county Facebook page.
  4. Collier County (Fla.) School District for a policy requiring students who elect not to stand for the national anthem to first obtain parental consent.
  5. The U.S. Olympic Committee for excessively protecting its trademarks by trying to prohibit non-sponsors of the Games from tweeting about the Olympics, posting pictures or using related hashtags.
  6. The U.S. Senate for unanimously passing a bill targeting speech on college campuses. The bill would change the definition of prohibited "anti-Semitism" to one that is so broad that it essentially would apply to any speech critical of Israel or its policies.
  7. Boca Raton Community High School administration (Palm Beach County, Fla.) for giving senior Maxine Yeakle the choice of removing her "Hilary for Prison" T-shirt or serving an in-school suspension.
  8. Cumberland County (N.C.) School Superintendent Frank Till Jr. for suspending and ultimately dismissing a teacher for stepping on an American flag to illustrate the protections of the First Amendment.
  9. Pierce College administration/the Los Angeles Community College District for not allowing a student to hand out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution outside of the college's tiny (.003 percent of the campus) designated "free speech zone."