McCormick Foundation Civics Program
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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.

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January 31, 2012

Five Freedoms


Widening the Illinois eavesdropping laws Some lawmakers want to give Illinois residents the right to record police officers. Illinois has one of the toughest eavesdropping laws in the country. As it stands, police and businesses can record citizens, but citizens can not record them back. (WBEZ)

Stolen Valor Act upheld on appeal The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this morning upheld the Stolen Valor Act, which makes lying about having received military awards a federal crime. (Denver Post)

Police Supt. McCarthy Comes Out Against Eavesdropping Act It is illegal to record a conversation with a police officer if you get pulled over or have a run-in, but police Supt. Garry McCarthy says that should change. (CBS2)

Twitter To Censor Tweets In Some Countries Twitter announced Thursday that the company now has the ability to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis, allowing the popular microblogging site to comply with local governments' request to remove or block certain content. (HP)

Critics fear Twitter's new policy will hinder free speech Twitter has promoted itself as a beacon of free speech, and that image was burnished when revolutionaries used the social media service to organize protests during last year's Arab Spring uprising. (LAT)

MBTA to bar alcohol ads on all property, including trains, buses The MBTA will no longer allow alcohol advertisement on its property, including in subway cars, trains and buses, starting July 1, a spokesman for the transit agency said today. (BG)

Paid protesters a new force in school closings debate Chicago Public Schools has been holding hearings on its proposed school closings. There’s a new dynamic in the hearings this year: busloads of protesters being paid by pastors who support school closings. (WBEZ)

Ministers call paying protesters unusual Reacting to allegations that “rent-a-protesters” packed recent school closing hearings, two ministers said Tuesday it is not common practice for Chicago clergy to pay people to attend hearings or “training.” (CST)

School watchdog probes reports of paid protesters The Chicago Public Schools inspector general said Wednesday he is investigating reports that bused protesters were paid to carry signs or read scripts at school closing hearings. (CST)

Imagine His Shock. His Leg Had Vanished. An advertising agency for the city’s health department obtained the rights to use the photo to illustrate its campaign — shown throughout the subway system — against supersize portions of fast food and sugary sodas. To emphasize that consuming too much of those foods could lead to diabetes and the amputation of limbs, the agency edited away the lower half of Mr. Berry’s right leg and conjured up a pair of crutches. (NYT)

S.C. county to pay almost $600K to settle jail-censorship suit The group that publishes a monthly newsletter for inmates says it has reached the largest jail-censorship lawsuit settlement ever with a prison.(FAC)

Sikh group sues over Jay Leno’s Romney joke Leno showed a photo of a glittering gold building and said it was Republican presidential candidate Romney’s summer home. The building in the photograph is the Golden Temple, the holiest site in the Sikh religion.(FAC)

Ark. newspaper objects to video ban at council meetings The publishers of an Izard County newspaper are questioning a new measure approved by the Calico Rock City Council that bans video recordings of council meetings. (AP)


Lawmaker pushes for bill to shield child witnesses and testimony from media Raising the ire of First Amendment defenders and the support of child advocates, a bill before state lawmakers would ban the media from identifying witnesses in a criminal trial who are under the age of 18. (Gatehouse News Service)


House OKs religious symbols at military memorials The House yesterday passed two bills endorsing the use of religious symbols at military memorials. One writes into law the propriety of displaying religious markers at war memorials, while the other orders that the Interior Department add to the World War II Memorial in Washington a plaque with Franklin Roosevelt’s prayer to the nation on D-Day. (AP)

6th Circuit reinstates student’s lawsuit against university A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit filed by a woman who contends she was kicked out of a master’s degree program at Eastern Michigan University because of her opposition to homosexuality. (AP)

Bloomberg blasts use of movie during NYPD training Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that New York police used “terrible judgment” in showing counterterrorism trainees a documentary-style film that says Muslim extremists are masquerading as moderates to destroy America from within. (AP)


Arrests in Oakland protests rise to more than 400 Crews cleaned up Oakland's historic City Hall on Sunday from damage inflicted overnight during violent anti-Wall Street protests that resulted in about 400 arrests, marking one of the largest mass arrests since nationwide protests began last year. (Reuters)

Federal judge denies effort to block abortion protester A judge last week denied the federal government’s request to keep a longtime anti-abortion protester from being able to stop cars and talk to drivers as they enter Denver’s Planned Parenthood center. (AP)

Idaho House votes to boot Occupy Boise from state grounds Idaho House members voted 54-16 this week to boot Occupy Boise protesters from state-managed ground near the Capitol building. (AP)

Protesters vow to stand their ground at Occupy DC camp U.S. Park Police began enforcing a ban Monday on camping in two Washington parks, with Occupy protesters at one site defiantly huddling under a large blue tarp that they dubbed the "tent of dreams." (CNN)

Student Freedoms


Sixth Circuit extends Hazelwood to colleges, universities A federal appeals court on Friday extended the censorship-friendly Hazelwood student expression standard to public colleges and universities, while allowing a former counseling student’s First Amendment lawsuit to go forward. (SPLC)

Student loses case involving religious message in speech A school district in Craryville, N.Y., did not violate a former middle school student’s First Amendment rights when the principal told her to omit religious sentiments from her speech at a graduation-type event, a federal court has ruled. (FAC)

Supreme Court will hear Atlantic High School strip search case The Iowa Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of the case involving the strip search of female students at Atlantic High School. The high court will review an October decision from the Iowa Court of Appeals, which ruled 2-1 that the Atlantic Community School District did not have to release the type of discipline taken against an assistant principal and guidance counselor responsible for improperly strip-searching the teenage girls. (Radio Iowa)


Former student sues Fla. district for libel over student newspaper photo The photo of Kenneth Clements, then a senior at Ronald W. Reagan/Doral Senior High School, allegedly appeared in a February 2011 issue of the Reagan Advocate next to a story about sexually transmitted diseases. (SPLC)

FAU newspapers stolen twice in one week About 2,600 copies of Florida Atlantic University’s student newspaper were stolen over three days this week after members of the staff removed posters that criticized the paper. (SPLC)


Atheist teen forces school to remove prayer from wall after 49 years In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion. (NYT)

Civil rights

3 teens charged with hate-crime racial attack Three white teenagers have been charged with a hate crime after they beat a black teen, then put a noose around his neck and yelled racial epithets at him because of his relationship with a white girl, Chicago police say. (CT)

The Struggle Continues

Civil rights

Arkansas man sentenced to 18 months in prison for burning cross outside black man's home An Independence County man who pleaded guilty in July to burning a cross in front of the home of a black man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. (AP)

Segregation Curtailed in U.S. Cities, Study Finds More than 40 years after the federal government enacted fair-housing legislation and the Great Migration of blacks from the South began to ebb, residential segregation in metropolitan America has been significantly curtailed, according to a study released Monday. (NYT)


TN Supreme Court to decide role of Nashville sheriff's office in immigration The future role of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office is in the hands of the Tennessee Supreme Court, which has been asked to weigh in on a federal lawsuit that challenges the authority of the department to enforce federal immigration law. (The Tennessean)

Abortion and reproductive rights

Ruling on Contraception Draws Battle Lines at Catholic Colleges Many Catholic colleges decline to prescribe or cover birth control, citing religious reasons. Now they are under pressure to change.(NYT)

Crime and punishment

Judge orders man to carry sign saying, ‘I failed to appear for jury duty’ A prospective juror in a fatal drunken driving crash who left in the middle of jury selection has been ordered to stand in front of the Lake County (Ind.) Courthouse the next two Mondays with a sign that says, “I failed to appear for jury duty.” (CST)

January 27 Juror dismissed over Web posts in Jason Young retrial A Superior Court judge on Thursday dismissed a juror after concerns that he had been posting on an Internet message board about the high-profile trial of a Wake County man accused of killing his wife. (WRAL)

Gay rights

Gay police officer’s First Amendment claim dismissed A former police officer in St. Cloud, Minn., who alleged his supervisors discriminated against him after finding out he was gay can proceed with his equal-protection – but not his First Amendment – claims. (FAC)

Gun rights

Washington state lawmakers push gun safety bill Following a toddler's shooting death, Washington state legislators are considering a bill that would require additional testing of gun locks and safes before the equipment is distributed to law enforcement officers for home use. (AP)

State bill proposes right to carry concealed weapons on campus Under the current law, public and private buildings may prohibit entry of permit holders’ firearms with signs posted at every entrance, which the University currently does. According to the new bill, public places would not be able to prohibit firearms by licensed carriers unless it had “adequate security measures,” including security guards and metal detectors at all public entrances. (Daily Kansan)

Gun Owner ID Cards Soar In Chicago The uptick in FOID cards follows the City Council’s approval of a July 2010 ordinance lifting a 28-year-old ban on handguns in Chicago. That followed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the McDonald v. Chicago case, which rendered the law unenforceable. (CBS2)

Va. Senate panel backs 1-handgun-a-month repeal; 2 other pro-gun measures put off until 2013 A Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed legislation to repeal Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month law, but two other measures supported by gun-rights advocates were carried over until next year. (AP)

Privacy rights

Google faces backlash over privacy changes On Tuesday, the search giant announced that it was placing 60 of its Web services under a unified privacy policy that would allow the company to share data between any of those services.(WP)

Property rights

Judiciary Committee Tackles Eminent Domain The House Judiciary Committee amended the Private Property Rights Protection Act so that states that use eminent domain to seize land for private development can be penalized - especially in instances where a violation "has a disproportionately high impact on the poor or minorities." (Courthouse News)

NH Senate blocks eminent domain for Northern Pass After a series of amendments to a House-passed bill on the project, the Senate agreed on a version that would block the Northern Pass project from using eminent domain but would leave the door open for future transmission projects that provide needed power to the region. Senators also added protections for property owners and created a commission to develop policies for burying power lines. (AP)

States rights

Judge: Federal Law Trumps Mont.'s Medical Pot Law A judge has ruled that Montana's medical marijuana law doesn't shield providers of the drug from federal prosecution, delivering a new blow to an industry reeling from a state and federal crackdown. (AP)

Justice and the Courts

Supreme Court

US Supreme Court won’t review Venezuelan request to dismiss Ohio investor lawsuit An Ohio investment group’s lawsuit seeking to collect $100 million on three-decade-old Venezuelan promissory notes is headed back to a federal judge for further deliberations. (AP)

A vow against gentrification: Seattle woman 'marries' a warehouse "If corporations can have the [same] rights as people, so can buildings," Baylonia Aivaz told Seattle's KOMO-TV in a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the door to nearly unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns. (LAT)

This Day in History

On January 31, 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives passes the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in America. The amendment read, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude...shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." (

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.
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