STATE OF MICHIGAN REJECTS “WAR SUX” LICENSE PLATE ON BASIS THAT VIEWING IT WOULD PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY HARM CHILDREN

In another awful example of government intrusion upon First Amendment freedoms, the state of Michigan is defending its rejection of an anti-war license plate, saying children riding in cars and playing in their yards need to be protected from seeing the words “WAR SUX.”

Attorneys for the Michigan secretary of state’s office asked a judge this month to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the applicant for the “WAR SUX” vanity plate that accuses officials of violating his First Amendment rights.  Here’s the State of Michigan’s official position on this, as reported by the Houston Chronicle:

“[B]ecause vehicles often travel in residential neighborhoods, youth may be exposed to license plates from their yards or driveways,” said Ann Sherman, an assistant attorney general. “Courts have often upheld legislation aimed at protecting the physical and emotional well-being of youth, even where First Amendment rights are concerned.”

You’ve gotta be kidding me.  First, do license plates even rank on the list of threats to kids who play in their front yards?  Isn’t the real concern that our kids will be abducted by child predators or shot by an errant bullet?  But license plates (and an anti-war license plate at that)?  Come on.  Really?

Even putting that aside, let’s get this straight – the State of Michigan’s position is that so long as some idiot bureaucrat finds a particular expressive communication to be offensive and potentially visible to “youth”, the State can squash it on the pretense that doing so is necessary to protect the “physical and emotional well-being of youth”?  What’ll they crack down on next? Bumper stickers?  And after that? Jehovah’s Witnesses?  People who go door to door gathering signatures on a political candidate’s ballot petition?  Where does it end?

The Wolverine State might as well break out the gulags, because under for which it advocates, no kind of expression would be safe and the State’s power would be virtually limitless.   But that, of course, might be precisely what the  State wants.

 

FEDERAL JUDGE RULES THAT FIRST AMENDMENT DOES NOT PROTECT MAN ACCUSED OF PLOTTING TO KIDNAP, RAPE AND KILL WOMEN

New Jersey resident Michael Van Hise, Stuyvesant High School librarian Robert Asch, Massachusetts Veterans Affairs police chief Robert Meltz allegedly chatted over the internet about about kidnapping, raping and killing women – including Vanhise’s wife, his stepdaughter, his sister-in-law, and the sister-in-law’s minor children.

According to this article:

Vanhise was [already] tucked away in jail when undercover FBI agents met with Meltz and Asch starting in March, culminating in meetings that led to their arrest. Meltz allegedly instructed the first undercover agent on April 14 how to dispose of the body of his female colleague at “a desolate location in the woods in upstate New York.” Meltz said that wild animals would likely find and destroy her body before law enforcement could find it, prosecutors claim.

The next day, the same agent who spoke to Meltz met with Asch, who brought “two bags of tools intended to be used in the kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder of UC-3, including, but not limited to, a Taser gun, rope, a meat hammer, duct tape, gloves, cleaning supplies, zip ties, a dental retractor, two speculums, 12-inch skewers, pliers, a wireless modem, and a leg spreader,” the indictment states.

The men claimed that they lacked the intent to commit the crimes with which they were charged, and that they were merely taking part in online fantasy role-play.   On this basis, Van Hise argued that the kidnapping charge against him was barred by the First Amendment.  According to Van Hise, the kidnapping statute “is unconstitutional as applied to [him], because it prohibits his conduct[,] which consists of pure speech.”  Van Hise argued that:

“there is no evidence that [he] did anything other than talk about kidnapping. He did not have the ability, the intention, or even the actual desire to commit a kidnapping. He did not agree with anyone else to take these actions. Nor did he attempt to persuade or induce, his co-defendants or any other person to actually commit a kidnapping.”

In a December 31, 2013 decision, Judge Gardephe, who sits in the Southern District of New York, rejected this argument.

Citing U.S. v. Rahman, a Second Circuit case from 1999, Judge Gardephe pointed out that although the Second Circuit has stated that “courts must be vigilant to insure that prosecutions are not improperly based on the mere expression of unpopular ideas,” it has also made clear that where “the evidence shows that . . . speech[ ] crossed the line into criminal solicitation, procurement of criminal activity, or conspiracy to violate the laws, [a] prosecution is permissible.”  Judge Gardephe noted that ”[t]he First Amendment lends no protection to participation in a conspiracy, even if such participation is through speech.”

The court’s decision in this regard is grounded in a 1982 decision by the United States Supreme Court, New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747 (1982).  In that case, the Supreme Court held that ”[i]t rarely has been suggested that the constitutional freedom for speech … extends its immunity to speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute.”  Id. at 761-62.

Because there was evidence that Van Hise’s “speech” crossed the line into a conspiracy to violate the law, the court determined that Van Hise’s prosecution was permissible.

 

SCHOOL BANS FIFTH GRADER FROM PUBLIC SPEECH COMPETITION BECAUSE HIS SPEECH IS ABOUT RELIGION — STUDENT TOLD TO “TAKE THE RELIGION OUT” OR DON’T COMPETE

Apparently, it’s not just institutions of “higher” learning that, although publicly claiming to exalt the robust exchange of ideas, actually seek to quash free expression if it embraces religion or, for that matter, endorses anything that might be considered not ”politically correct.”

According to this article, when the fifth grader’s parents protested, the school postponed the competition “until parents signed permission slips allowing their children to hear the speeches,” because a speech about religion “is not appropriate for fourth- and fifth-graders.”

Yeah, right.  I wonder what part was “inappropriate” in their minds.  Maybe it was the part where the fifth-grader talked about how “religion provides moral guidance for most of the 7 billion people on the Earth”?  Perhaps it was when he said, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you,” and that “[t]his world would be a better place if everybody followed that rule.”

This school’s actions have abased, not venerated, our Constitution.  What message do they think this sends to the children they are supposed to be teaching?   What a disgrace.

 

OFFICER’S PEPPER-SPRAYING OF PROTESTORS IS UNDER INVESTIGATION

The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau and the Manhattan D.A.’s Office are separately investigating Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna’s use of pepper spray on a number of female protesters at a demonstration on Saturday.

The incident was captured on video and disseminated on the internet.  In that video, Inspector Bologna walks up to a group of women standing on the sidewalk behind some orange netting, squirts pepper spray at them and walks away.  According to the New York Times, two of those women said that they had received no warning before being sprayed and that its use was unprovoked.

 

FLORIDA COURT RULES THAT DRIVERS HAVE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO BLAST MUSIC

A Florida court has struck down a Florida law that makes it illegal for a vehicle’s sound system to be “plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more from the motor vehicle” on the basis that playing loud music on the radio is constitutionally protected speech.

This comes on the heels of a lawsuit arguing that flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic of the present of police vehicles is constitutionally protected speech.

Read more about it here.

MTA REFUSES TO POST BUS AND SUBWAY ADS CALLING ENEMIES OF ISRAEL “SAVAGES”

According to the Daily News, the Metropolitan Transportation Agency has rejected a proposed bus and subway ad denouncing enemies of Israel.  The poster was submitted to the MTA by blogger Pamela Geller earlier this month in response to ads in 18 stations urging the United States to end military support to Israel.

According to the MTA’s media management company, CBS Outdoor, Geller’s proposed ad (depicted below) violates MTA standards because it ”demeans an individual or group of individuals.” Geller has said she will sue, claiming that the MTA’s refusal to post the ad violates the First Amendment.

pamela-geller-ad5-300x248

PROTESTORS KETTLED AND MACED BY NYPD COPS

Despite the fact that the First Amendment guarantees ”the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,”a group of female protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street organization were “kettled” (corralled with plastic netting held by officers), a tactic used to contain and control protesters, then pepper-sprayed for good measure by New York’s Finest.  Check out this video of the incident:

TUBE SITE EPORNER.COM SUED FOR $4.05 MILLION FOR COPYRIGHT AND TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT

Private Media Group has filed another lawsuit against a tube site that it alleges has poached its material.

The $4.05 million suit, filed in federal district court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is against tube site EPorner.com.

The lawsuit alleges that the EPorner.com website contained ”over 27 separate instances of copyright infringement of plaintiff’s copyrighted and trademarked intellectual property.”

Read more here.

LAWSUIT: FLASHING HEADLIGHTS TO WARN ONCOMING DRIVERS OF PRESENCE OF COPS IS CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED SPEECH

When Erich Campbell passed two Florida Highway Patrol cruisers parked in the median near Tampa International Airport in December 2009, he flashed his headlights to warn oncoming drivers of the cops.

You can guess what happened next: Campbell was pulled over and ticketed for improperly flashing his high beams.

In August, Campbell filed a class-action lawsuit in Tallahassee against the highway patrol and other state traffic-enforcement agencies seeking an injunction barring law enforcement from issuing headlight-flash tickets.

Campbell’s lawyer claims that ”the flashing of lights to communicate with another driver is clearly speech,” and that the Tampa Highway Patrol violated Campbell’s First Amendment right to free speech by pulling him over and ticketing him for it.

A spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations disagrees, and contends that flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic that there are law enforcement officers ahead “interfer[es] with legitimate law enforcement activity.”

Read the article here.

LAWSUIT ASSERTS THAT TATTOOING IS SPEECH PROTECTED BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT

The Arizona Court of Appeals is weighing whether the Mesa City Council denied the constitutional rights of two tattoo artists by denying them an operating permit 2 1/2 years ago.

After several neighbors voiced concerns that the parlor would drag down the area’s quality of life, city officials refused to issue the tattoo artists an operating permit.

The tatoo artists then sued the city, arguing that the subjective permit process – under which city council is given wide discretion to approve or deny certain types of businesses – violated their right to free expression and is therefore unconstitutional.

The attorney for the owners of the tattoo parlor argued that getting a tattoo is like commissioning an artist to do a portrait — the only difference being that ”the medium that’s being used is not canvas but someone’s skin.”

The attorney representing Mesa said that the only thing being regulated is the business, not free speech, and that cities have the right to deny permission to all kinds of land uses if they generate traffic problems, lack sufficient infrastructure or would otherwise burden a neighborhood.

Read the story here.

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