McCormick Foundation Civics Program
Trouble viewing this message? Click here to view it as a Web page.
If you received this e-newsletter as a forward and would like to subscribe, send us an email.
The Latest First Amendment and Freedom News from Sources around the Country and World

The McCormick Foundation Civics Program seeks to improve access to quality civic education and engagement opportunities in Chicagoland for youth ages 12-22. For more information about our organization, click here.

Click here for source abbreviations

January 24, 2012

Five Freedoms


Congress puts anti-piracy bills on ice Lawmakers on Friday indefinitely postponed anti-piracy legislation that pits Hollywood against Silicon Valley, two days after major Internet companies staged an online protest by blacking out parts of prominent websites. (Reuters)

Controversy Swirls Around Harsh Anti-Obesity Ads Stark billboards and television commercials that feature overweight kids are part of a controversial anti-obesity campaign in Atlanta. The goal of the "Stop Sugarcoating It, Georgia" ads is to shock families into recognizing that obesity is a problem. (NPR)

N.H. can’t muzzle Bigfoot, state high court rules The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Bigfoot’s right to romp around Mount Monadnock — and against a state regulation governing special events at parks. (AP)

Op-ed: How to make the ‘Citizens United’ decision worse That corporations speak is less a concern than whom they speak for and what they say. The cure for this is more democracy within businesses — more participation in corporate governance by workers, communities, shareholders and consumers.(WP)

Op-ed: Battle Over SOPA Shows Why Corporations Need First Amendment Protection Think of how many members of Congress, humiliated (or at least humbled) by the anti-SOPA blow-back on the internet, would love to not only punish the Fifth Estate for its political impudence, but to neuter it permanently-for example, by blocking corporate acquisitions, unleashing antitrust and SEC investigations, or instigating IRS scrutiny. (HP)

Op-ed: It's time to end censorship on the public airwaves Protecting children against language they hear and use all the time, and especially on cable, is not only folly, but convinces children that there is something wrong with adults. Sometime ago, WHYY broadcast children speaking on the street about a stolen car and bleeped out words to protect children from their own speech! (PI)

A Look at Chicago's Protest King Thayer's extensive protesting background includes anti-war and gay rights demonstrations in Chicago. But the G-8 and NATO summits, a once-in-a-lifetime event, could be his crowning achievement. (NBC)

FBI Charges Seven With Online Piracy The Federal Bureau of Investigation shut down Thursday one of the world's most popular file-sharing websites,, and announced the arrest of four of the people behind it in a global crackdown against the suspected online pirates. (WSJ)

Boring Wisconsin recall webcam draws big audience The Government Accountability Board, or GAB as it's known in these parts, wants to be, well, accountable. So as the work proceeds at the secret location, it's letting the public eavesdrop through the webcam. (AP)

U.S. appeals court says sex offenders have right to libraries A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that a policy barring registered sex offenders from public libraries in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was unconstitutional, a decision that could have reverberations across the nation. (Reuters)


Ohio TV station covers high-profile trial with puppets It’s courtroom drama crossed with “Sesame Street,” as a television station barred from using cameras during a high-profile corruption trial covers the highlights with a nightly puppet show.(AP)

Op-ed: Why we will no longer endorse in elections We have come to doubt the value of candidate endorsements by this newspaper or any newspaper, especially in a day when a multitude of information sources allow even a casual voter to be better informed than ever before. (CST)

News Corp admits guilt, settles hacking claims The British newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp looks set to settle at great expense a string of legal claims after admitting wide-scale phone hacking that was both known about and concealed by senior management. (Reuters)


Court rejects appeal over prayer at public meeting The justices on Tuesday left in place a federal appeals court ruling that held that the predominantly Christian prayers at the start of Forsyth County commission meetings violated the First Amendment's prohibition on government endorsement of a particular religion. (AP)

High court ruling leaves some workers confused The high court ruled earlier this month in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC that religious workers can’t sue for job discrimination. The justices, however, didn’t describe what constitutes a religious employee — putting many people employed by churches, synagogues or other religious organizations in limbo over their rights. (AP)

Parties in Utah memorial-crosses case submit settlement On Jan. 13, Salt Lake City civil rights attorney Brian Barnard submitted the settlement agreement forcing the removal of the crosses from Utah highways to U.S. District Judge David Sam. Under the agreement, the crosses must come down by Feb. 26. It’s not clear when Sam might sign the papers. (AP)


City moves to settle lawsuits over mass arrests in 2003 war protests City of Chicago lawyers have reached a financial settlement with 16 people wrongly arrested in a 2003 Iraq war protest, and they have told a federal judge they intend to settle a similar class-action lawsuit representing more than 800 people who were detained or arrested at the demonstration. (CT)

At US Courthouses, Hundreds Reject Landmark Ruling Facing freezing temperatures and snowy weather, several hundred protesters gathered at courthouses across the nation Friday and some clashed with police as they protested a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that removed most limits on corporate and labor spending in federal elections. (AP)

Peace vigil returns to Roanoke City Market after prevailing in First Amendment clash Plowshare Peace and Justice Center’s monthly silent peace vigil returned to the sidewalk in front of the City Market building Saturday after a hiatus of 16 months – and a federal lawsuit and tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees paid by taxpayers. (Roanoke Times)

Student Freedoms


Does First Amendment protect students' online speech off-campus? The Supreme Court declined to take up Tuesday three potentially important test cases of the First Amendment of students engaged in controversial speech on the Internet. (CSM)

Op-ed: Justices leave questions on online student speech unanswered The justices avoided the opportunity to clarify when school officials may punish students for online expression they create away from school, refusing to review cases out of Pennsylvania and West Virginia: Blue Mountain School District v. J.S. and Kowalski v. Berkeley Count Schools. (FAC)


Iowa High Court Lets Student Press Ruling Stand The Iowa Supreme Court will let stand a decision granting high school journalism students broad free press rights. (AP)

The Struggle Continues

Worker's rights

Line of Scrimmage Forms Over Union Bill The standoff, three weeks old, is over whether Indiana should become the first state in the Midwest manufacturing belt to adopt legislation banning union contracts from requiring nonunion members to pay fees for representation. And it threatens to linger even as the national attention on the Super Bowl arrives — a possibility that Indiana Republicans want to avoid but that some union supporters seem to be hoping for. (NYT)

Chicago Woman Fired for Doing Work at Lunch Wins Unemployment Claim Sharon Smiley had worked for 10 years as a receptionist and administrative assistant at a Chicago real estate company until she was fired for skipping lunch one day. After a two-year battle, an appeals court in Illinois has found that denial of her unemployment benefits was "clearly erroneous." (ABC)

Abortion and reproductive rights

Longshot presidential candidate to put abortion in your face during Super Bowl The planned Super Bowl ad begins with a brief warning imposed over Obama's face before Terry says, "Abortion is murder. The innocent blood of 50 million babies cries out to God from our sewers and landfills. We must make it a crime to murder them, or heaven will judge America." (CNN)

Obama admin to grant 1-year extension for church-affiliated employers to cover birth control The new rule is part of a package of improved preventive services for women under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Birth control is on a list of services that most workplace health plans will have to cover free of charge to employees. (WP)

Disability rights

Massachusetts Appeals Court rules that judge was wrong to order mentally ill woman to have an abortion and to then be sterilized The Massachusetts Appeals Court today reversed a probate judge’s decision to order a schizophrenic woman to undergo an abortion and to then be sterilized, saying the woman had consistently expressed her opposition to the practice as a Catholic.(BG)

Mom Says Mentally Impaired Tot Heartlessly Denied Transplant Mia's mother Chrissy Rivera has said the family is willing to donate a live organ, but Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has reportedly told her that they will not recommend transplantation for the toddler because of her disabilities. (ABC)

Elections and voting

New ward map from old politics As soon as the maps could be printed, aldermen were handed copies. Less than an hour later, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel led the proceedings, the map was rammed through 41-8. There was no public hearing on the final plan, and the lopsided vote followed a discussion focused far more on legal technicalities than impact on Chicago residents. (CT)

Missouri: Court Rejects State Redistricting Map The State Supreme Court struck down new State Senate districts on Tuesday and ordered more review of new Congressional boundaries, throwing uncertainty into Missouri’s election season just weeks before candidates are to begin filing for office.(AP)

As Closed-Door Redistricting Drags On, Incumbents’ Edge Only Grows Even at a time when many states have faced controversy and litigation over redrawing political lines, New York stands out. It is one of the last states in the nation to move forward with the decennial redistricting process, creating an enormous advantage for the already advantaged incumbents in Congress and the State Legislature. (NYT)

Op-ed: Why we will no longer endorse in elections We have come to doubt the value of candidate endorsements by this newspaper or any newspaper, especially in a day when a multitude of information sources allow even a casual voter to be better informed than ever before. (CST)

Bill to allow voluntary party registration in Va. advances The Republican State Central Committee voted to require voters in the March 6 presidential primary to sign a pledge to support the party's presidential nominee in November. After criticism from party members, the GOP committee is expected to officially dump the oath Saturday. (WSLS)

Judge axes San Diego's $1K cap on party contributions Political parties can now give unlimited contributions to San Diego city candidates following a federal judge’s ruling that the $1,000 cap on such donations -- created by city officials in response to a previous ruling -- violated the First Amendment. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Gun rights

Judge dismisses suit challenging Texas' concealed carry law A federal judge in Lubbock on Thursday threw out the National Rifle Association's move to overturn a Texas law prohibiting 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying concealed handguns(Austin American-Statesman)

Illinois only state without concealed carry In Illinois, the Family and Personal Protection Act that would allow gun owners to carry loaded firearms — either openly or concealed — in a vehicle and into certain public places came up six votes shy in the Illinois House last year. Anti-gun lawmakers from the Chicago area provided most of the opposition. But the debate is not over: State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, expects to bring the bill back for another vote this year. (Bloomington Pantagraph )

TN gun laws, or lack thereof, under attack Tennessee is among 34 states that don’t require any background checks for private sales of firearms, even if the sale is handled by an online site. (The Tennessean)

Homeland Security

US Senator Rand Paul refuses airport patdown after alarm In a harshly worded attack on the Transportation Security Administration, which handles security screenings at U.S. airports, Ron Paul, known for his strident libertarian views, said the TSA "gropes and grabs our kids and our seniors and does nothing to keep us safe." (CSM)

How was the Justice Department Web site attacked? Hackers successfully crippled the Justice Department’s Web site Thursday, scoring the second significant attack on a major government site in six months and once again prompting questions about the protection of federal Internet properties.(WP)

Privacy rights

For Online Privacy, Click Here The campaign, one of the largest domestic consumer privacy campaigns to date, comes as advertisers, technology companies and privacy advocates await a final report from the Federal Trade Commission on online privacy. (NYT)

Police Working on Technology to Detect Concealed Guns In a speech on Tuesday morning to the New York City Police Foundation, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the department was working with the Defense Department to develop gun-scan technology “capable of detecting concealed firearms.” (NYT)

Cameras May Open Up the Board Room to Hackers One afternoon this month, a hacker took a tour of a dozen conference rooms around the globe via equipment that most every company has in those rooms; videoconferencing equipment. (NYT)

Justice and the Courts

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Warrants needed in GPS tracking The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that police must obtain a search warrant before using a GPS device to track criminal suspects. But the justices left for another day larger questions about how technology has altered a person’s expectation of privacy. (WP)

Public Domain Works Can Be Copyrighted Anew, Supreme Court Rules By a 6-to-2 vote, the justices rejected arguments based on the First Amendment and the Constitution’s copyright clause, saying that the public domain was not “a category of constitutional significance” and that copyright protections might be expanded even if they did not create incentives for new works to be created. (NYT)

Supreme Court won’t hear arguments demanding Kagan’s recusal from health care case Freedom Watch asked the high court for time to demand Kagan’s recusal or disqualification during arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.(AP)

Don’t like political ads? Scalia says turn off the TV U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has a simple solution for people who don’t like all the political advertisements unleashed by the Court’s decision two years ago that ended limits on corporate contributions in political campaigns — change the channel or turn off the TV. (AP)

This Day in History

On January 24, 1956, Look magazine publishes the confessions of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, two white men from Mississippi who were acquitted in the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago. Public outrage over Till's murder helped spark the civil rights movement. (

Source Abbreviations:

AP: Associated Press; BBC: British Broadcasting Corporation; BG: Boston Globe; BS: Baltimore Sun; BW: Business Week; CR: Chicago Reader; CSM: Christian Science Monitor; CST: Chicago Sun-Times; CT: Chicago Tribune; DH: Daily Herald; DMN: Dallas Morning DP: Denver Post; Drudge Report; EP: Editor & Publisher; FAC: First Amendment Center; HC: Houston Chronicle; HP: Huffington Post; IHT: International Herald Tribune; LAT: Los Angeles Times; MH: Miami Herald; MJS: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; NW: Newsweek; NYT: New York Times; PI: Philadelphia Inquirer; PEIJ: Project for Excellence in Journalism; RCP: Real Clear Politics; SC: San Francisco Chronicle; SJR: State Journal-Register; SLPD: St. Louis Post-Dispatch; SPI: Seattle Post-Intelligencer; SPLC: Student Press Law Center; SPT: St. Petersburg Times; ST: Seattle Times; TH:; UNWP: U.S. News and World Report; USA: USA Today; WP: Washington Post; WSJ: Wall Street Journal; WT: Washington Times.
back to top


Bring the Freedom Express mobile museum to your school.


Learn about upcoming professional development opportunities for educators.

Reserve a Discovery Trunk, at no charge, for your classroom.