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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November 1, 2011

Five Freedoms


BART talks on cell phone blackouts extended The proposed cell-service interruption policy would restrict such shutdowns to instances when "there is strong evidence of imminent unlawful activity that threatens the safety of passengers, employees and other members of the public, the destruction of (BART) property or the substantial disruption of public transit services." (SC)

‘Hate-crime’ allegations stand in AG cross-burning case A San Luis Obispo County judge ruled Monday that four people charged with burning a cross near a mixed-race family’s Arroyo Grande home are not protected by freedom of speech, and the charges against them will include “hate-crime” enhancements. (Santa Maria Times)

House introduces Internet piracy bill House lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill that would expand the ability of federal law enforcement to shut down foreign Web sites and services that that use counterfeited or pirated content created by U.S. firms. (WP)

Court overturns woman's horn-honking conviction The case of a Snohomish County woman who was jailed for honking her horn in a dispute with a neighbor has been overturned by the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the county's ordinance on horn-honking was overbroad. (Seattle Times)

Judge: Fired LSU scientist has First Amendment claim A scientist who said shoddy levee work caused Hurricane Katrina’s devastating floods wasn’t required to keep quiet about his work for Louisiana State University because he wasn’t speaking as a school employee, a federal judge has ruled. (AP)

N.Y. high court rebukes state agency over FOI case New York’s top court chided a state agency and warned others on Oct. 25 after what judges called a costly, unnecessary fight to withhold public records sought under the Freedom of Information Law. (AP)

Lawyers in Boston terror trial ask judge to instruct jury on 1st Amendment free speech right On Wednesday, his lawyers filed court documents asking Judge George O’Toole Jr. to tell the jury that the right to free speech includes the right to advocate force or violence, unless the speech is likely to incite “imminent lawless action.”(AP)


Lawsuit: L.A. County deputies harass news photographers The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department yesterday, claiming the law enforcement agency is harassing news photographers and other people who take pictures in public places. (AP)

Op-ed:Pakistani reporter’s chilling question reminds us of our freedom What do you say to a journalist who asks your advice on how to avoid his own murder?(FAC)

Op-ed: Fighting Over Online Sex Ads Before you head out for the lanterns and pitchforks, it’s worth remembering that a free press is not free. One of the offshoots of free speech is that it will be used to pernicious ends.(NYT)


Judge hears challenge to Fla. religion amendment A proposed state constitutional amendment that would repeal Florida's ban on public financial aid to religious organizations should be stripped from the November 2012 ballot, a teacher's union lawyer argued Thursday. (AP)

Court of Appeals: Kentucky can credit 'Almighty God' for homeland security The state can continue giving official credit for its homeland security to Almighty God, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Friday in a decision overturning a lower-court ruling. (Louisville Courier-Journal)

Op-ed: Religion at the Ballot Box If politicians say their religion guides them, and influential ministers have a litmus test for candidates’ “biblical values,” it’s fair to ask: Which politicians espouse policies that align with Christianity? How so? (NYT)

Appeals court: Judge can use Islamic law The Islamic Center of Tampa had filed the petition in March in which it contested Nielsen's decision to use "ecclesiastical Islamic law" in the case. (UPI)

Muslim sues bottling company over prayer time A former delivery driver has filed a federal lawsuit against a soda bottling plant in Harvey that allegedly fired him shortly after he asked to time his lunch break to attend weekly Islamic prayers at a mosque. (CT)

Tenn. town partially removes cross from water tower The mayor of Whiteville has partially removed a cross that was on top of the city’s water tower after a religious-freedom group threatened to file a lawsuit. (AP)


Occupy Nashville protesters sue governor over curfew Occupy Nashville protesters are suing Gov. Bill Haslam over a new curfew on the grounds around the Capitol that has been used to dislodge their camp and arrest demonstrators. The lawsuit claims the curfew was created without following required procedures, and its enforcement violates the protesters rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and due process. (AP)

Volunteer lawyers help 'Occupy' protesters through legal system As copycat Occupy Wall Street encampments around the country confront the legal tangles that come with a nationwide sit-in-style protest, a growing army of First Amendment-loving lawyers is shepherding the demonstrators through the legal system at no charge. (McClatchy Newspapers)

Injured Occupy Oakland protester should make full recovery, roommate says. An Iraq War veteran badly injured when police stormed an Occupy Oakland encampment last week is expected to make a full recovery, his roommate said Sunday. Scott Olsen, 24, was badly hurt when he was hit in the head by a tear-gas canister fired by police trying to control a crowd that had swelled to 1,000 people on Tuesday night, according to witnesses. (Oakland Tribune)

Student Freedoms


Ohio U. Students Hit 'Racist' Halloween Costumes A group of students from Ohio University has drawn national attention for a poster campaign denouncing what they see as racist Halloween costumes. (ABC News)

High court turns away Conn. student’s free-speech appeal The Supreme Court is refusing to disturb a federal appeals court’s ruling that Connecticut school officials acted reasonably in disciplining a student for an Internet posting she wrote outside of school. (AP)

Springfield superintendent reverses decision to ban Halloween costumes in town's elementary schools School Superintendent Michael Davino has a treat for students at Springfield's two elementary schools: They will be allowed to wear Halloween costumes on Monday, according to a memo posted on the district's website this morning. (New Jersey Star-Ledger)


Pre-game football prayers under fire in Lauderdale County Prayer at high school football games is under fire at another north Alabama school system. This time, it's the Lauderdale County School District that is accused of violating the First Amendment. (WAFF)

Student religious fliers probably OK in Pa. school, court says A Pennsylvania school district likely violated the First Amendment when it prohibited a fifth-grader from distributing invitations to a party at her church, a federal district court has ruled. (FAC)

Christian Club Sues School Over Media Restriction An Oklahoma school district is facing a lawsuit for allegedly forbidding organizers of a Christian club from promoting events on campus.(Fox News)

The Struggle Continues


Federal judge orders release of immigrant-program memo A federal judge has ordered the release of a document expected to show why the U.S. government ended up mandating a program for identifying deportable immigrants after they’ve been detained. (AP)

Feds not helping Alabama enforce immigration law The administration has sued to block the law, which is considered the toughest state immigration measure in the country. (AP)

Obama's illegal-immigrant crackdown fills prisons with Hispanics A recent federal illegal-immigrant crackdown has led to thousands of arrests, having profound implications for Hispanics – most of whom are in the United States legally. (CSM)

Crime and punishment

Hunger-striking prisoner appeals to Connecticut’s high court to disallow force-feedings Attorneys for a British prisoner who lost more than 100 pounds during a hunger strike asked the Connecticut Supreme Court on Tuesday to prevent prison officials from force-feeding him, saying that the practice violates his free-speech rights. (AP)

Class action lawsuit targets Naperville police booking fees Assessing the fee further violates Roehl’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it “does not provide him with adequate notice of the seizure and conversion of his property ...; does not provide an opportunity to object to (that) seizure ...; and does not provide any type of hearing prior to the deprivation of the property,” the lawsuit declared. (CST)

Death penalty

Lifelong Death Sentences Foreign courts have ruled that living for decades under the threat of imminent execution is a form of psychological torment. (NYT)

Gay rights

Gay troops to file suit challenging Defense of Marriage Act Gay and lesbian service members and veterans plan to file suit Thursday challenging the constitutionality of the federal ban on gay marriage and federal policy that define a spouse as a person of the opposite sex. (WP)

New ‘It Gets Better’ video features three Republicans with record opposing gay rights While Democratic politicians and celebrities have long participated in the videos, this marks the first time Congressional Republicans have participated, including New Jersey Republican Reps. Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo, and Jon Runyan. (WP)

Gun rights

GOP seeks to expand right-to-carry In the latest skirmish over guns, House Republicans on Tuesday advanced a bill that would expand the rights of concealed firearms permit-holders, allowing them to carry hidden weapons in any state that issues permits. (HC)

Homeland Security

NYPD keeps secret intelligence files on city Muslims who change their names The program was conceived as a tripwire for police in the difficult hunt for homegrown terrorists, where there are no widely agreed upon warning signs. Like other NYPD intelligence programs created in the past decade, this one involved monitoring behavior protected by the First Amendment. (AP)

Privacy rights

NBC Isn't Off the Hook for Trap on 'Predator' Tiwari filed suit against NBC Universal, claiming the network violated his Fourth Amendment rights through actions amounting "to a seizure that intruded on his privacy rights and the seizure was unreasonable because it was conducted 'in a manner to cause humiliation to [Mr Tiwari] with no legitimate law enforcement purpose or objective.'" (Courthouse News)

Property rights

Lawsuit says 30 percent rental rule overly restrictive Ethan Dean, Holly Richard, and Ted and Lauren Dzierzbicki allege that the city's ordinance, which stipulates that rentals comprise no more than 30 percent of a city block, is unconstitutional and illegal because it overly restricts homeowners' ability to use their properties and does not give them equal opportunity to obtain rental licenses.(Winona Daily News)

Justice and the Courts

Supreme Court

Supreme Court Hears Plea Bargain Cases The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in two cases testing whether a lawyer's mishandling of a plea bargain offer should be sufficient reason for a defendant to get a second chance to accept the offer. (NPR)

Obama healthcare law issues before high court Six cases involving President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul legislation are pending before the Supreme Court as part of the legal battle over the law's fate. (Reuters)

Justices Decline Case on Highway Crosses The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal of a ruling that the placement of crosses on the side of Utah highways to honor fallen state troopers violated the First Amendment’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. (NYT)

This Day in History

On November 1, 1765 in the face of widespread opposition in the American colonies, Parliament enacts the Stamp Act, a taxation measure designed to raise revenue for British military operations in America.  The Stamp Act was one of the policies imposed on colonists that later led to them rising up in the American Revolution. (

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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