Monday, April 13, 2009

A Day Without Civil Liberties

Paul Tim and Corey

Freedom of Religion

The first amendment of the constitution guarantees people with the right to practice any religion they wish to. The religion of Rastafarianism however involves the use of marijuana in religious practices. Pot however is also a Schedule I controlled under United States Law. Currently Rastafarians are not allowed to smoke weed in the United States and if they are caught they will be prosecuted just the same as anyone else. By not allowing Rasta’s to smoke reefer the government is infringing on their religious rights. The government’s ban on grass for even Rastafarians is unreasonable because there have been religious exceptions for controlled substances in the past. The 1919 Volstead Act banned the creation, consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages exceeding .5% alcohol by volume however the government made an exception for Christian churches to keep using wine during religious gatherings. Also, as of 2006 a Brazilian church located in New Mexico was permitted to use a tea containing DMT (a controlled hallucinogenic substance) in their religious practices. It seems unfair that the government will make all of these exceptions to other religions and not permit Rastafarians to fully practice their religion by smoking ganja.

Paul Whitman

First Amendment test

I got 24 out of 30 questions right on the first amendment test. I knew most of the answers to these questions however I missed the few that I did because they were either worded strange or the scenarios were really obscure. I did not know that a school cannot make a campus law on campus that prohibits “harassing, demeaning, highly offensive, or insulting speech based on one’s actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other personal characteristic.”

Paul Whitman

Bong Hits for Jesus

This just in! A groundbreaking decision was made in the Supreme Court today, over the case Morse v. Frederick. The Court has ruled that students free speech rights can, in fact, be limited while at school - depending on the circumstances. In Juneau, Alaska, 18 year old Joseph Frederick displayed a 14-foot banner with the words "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" on a public sidewalk outside his school. The banner was confiscated and Frederick suspended, so he filed suit against the principal of his school, claiming his First Amendment rights had been infringed upon. When the case finally reached the Supreme Court, the Court ruled against Frederick in a 6-3 majority. Along with Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito voted with the majority. The dissenters were John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The principal of the school, Deborah Morse, had felt that she "was empowered to enforce the school board's written policies at that time aimed at keeping illegal substances out of the school environment." In the majority opinion, Roberts concurred: "It was reasonable for (the principal) to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use-- and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge." The bottom line? Students do not have a constitutional right to advocate illegal drug use at school!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

First Amendment Test

I scored a 25 out of 30 on the First Amendment Quiz. The wrong answers I received were mostly because I went with what I wanted to be true instead of the actual truth of the matter; often, I wish our rights were just expanded that tiny bit more, but at the same time, I know that there are those who would abuse those rights (such as the Westboro Baptist Church).
One question that struck me was regarding private schools that receive government funding, and the censorship of speech or press of students there. Apparently, even though the government does provide financial support for these schools, they are still allowed to censor and restrict students' First Amendment rights while they are on campus. I found this surprising, and thought that surely if the government caught wind of this activity, they would pull their support, but apparently it is perfectly legal, as the injection of federal dollars does not make the administrators of the school government actors. Food for thought.


Freedom from Religion

Amicus Curiae brief for “Locke v. Davey”

Esteemed Justices of the Court, I represent the American Organization for a Secular Government. I would like to express our society’s opinion on the case Locke v. Davey, regarding scholarship funds for students majoring in theology and intending to become a minister, pastor, priest, or other religious position.

It is our opinion that these persons who openly declare a proposed career in a non-academic or research-based religious field ought to be barred from receiving government-supported aid in their endeavors. This is not to say that these individuals should not receive need-based financial assistance from the government should they qualify, but to fund students who intend to establish a religion o’er this land is to in essence, establish a religion o’er this land. It cannot be argued that this kind of scholarship funding for these students would respect the atheistic, agnostic, or non-religious groups that America has in plenty. Though they may not be the majority, it is the duty of the government to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Thusly, we reached our conclusion urging the court to support Mr. Locke and the government of the state of Washington, in their carefully-considered and fair requirements for the state’s Promise Scholarship. To openly support these persons who wish to establish a religion with federal money is to, following the money trail, establish a religion, and we cannot violate our sacred 1st Amendment rights. Thank you, and I do hope you will see things as we of the AOSG have come to.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

First Amendment Test

I scored 24 out of 30 questions right on this test. We went over many of the subjects in class, but there were still a few questions that I did not know how to answer. Question 12 was one of these, asking "Can a reporter be sent to jail for refusing a judges order to reveal the identity of his or her news source?" I learned that this is actually a possibility; if a court decides that the law does not protect a journalist, the journalist can be ordered to cooperate or sent to jail. Also, the answers to some questions would change if they are applied to the present day. For example, the quiz lists question 3, "the first amendment protects students while at school," as true. However, the recent Supreme Court case Morse v. Frederick declared a school's prohibition of student speech advocating drug use as constitutional.