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.

Freedom in the News will not be published on November 22 and November 29. The next edition will be on December 6.

Click here for source abbreviations

November 15, 2011

Five Freedoms


Senate votes to retain net neutrality regulations The Senate voted to keep in place federal rules aimed at preserving open Internet access for online users, but hurdles still loom for the controversial policy. (LAT)

For Dover AFB mortuary whistleblowers, echoes of Arlington Two mortuary workers, James G. Parsons Sr., an autopsy embalming technician, and David Vance, a mortuary inspector, were fired last year. Lerner’s office quickly intervened, saying the terminations appeared to be reprisals for cooperating with federal investigators who were probing the mortuary. (WP)

Texas board rejects Confederate flag license plates The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board on Thursday voted unanimously to reject license plates featuring the Confederate flag. (Reuters)

Feds ask D.C. Circuit to dismiss ex-Gitmo prosecutor’s lawsuit The former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay is suing the Library of Congress for firing him after he wrote opinion columns in two leading newspapers criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to try some suspected terrorists before military tribunals. (AP)

New generation of music central to Occupy Wall Street Music and musicians are woven into the fabric of the Occupy Wall Street protest, much as they were in movements, confrontations and protests of the past, from the American Revolution to slavery to the Civil War, suffrage movement, labor movement, civil rights movement and Vietnam War.(AP)

Emanuel denies public records requests The mayor refused Tribune requests for his emails, government cellphone bills and his interoffice communications with top aides, arguing it would be too much work to cross out information the government is allowed to keep private. After lengthy negotiations to narrow its request for two months of these records, the newspaper was told that almost all of the emails had been deleted. (CT)

Op-ed: Should we punish lies that defame no one? Given that some false statements are constitutionally protected, which kinds are not? Defamatory statements are not, if they are made with a culpable state of mind and if they injure another person. But Alvarez defamed no one, and it is unclear how his fabrications about himself caused America’s armed forces reputational harm. (WP)

Bigfoot tries to make a living in N.H. Filmmaker Jonathan Doyle, dressed in a gorilla costume and orange prison jumpsuit, had to shed his creative persona as five justices considered whether the state had violated his first amendment right. (NECN)

Op-ed: Cigarette makers have freedom not to speak Governments have other ways to deter smoking, including public education and cigarette taxes. There’s no need to light up the First Amendment. (FAC)


State’s top court hears challenge to online court postings The far-reaching effects of the Internet on the First Amendment are under scrutiny as the state’s highest court considers the content of cases being streamed live from Quincy District Court.  (Patriot Ledger)

Pakistani journalist given U.S. asylum tells of threats, disappearances in Baluchistan In his petition, he said that his work as a journalist and ethnic activist in Baluchistan, where he had exposed military abuses, made him likely to be arrested, tortured, abducted and “ultimately killed by the government” if he returned. (WP)

KSTP hit with $1 million defamation verdict A Dakota County jury has awarded a holistic healer from Hudson, Wis., $1 million in compensatory damages from KSTP-TV for a March 2009 story it aired about her treatment of a patient, attorneys for both sides said Monday night. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

New Inquiry Shows Wider Phone Hacking The inquiries have inspired public debate about the relationship between privacy and the press and about the extent to which Britain’s self-regulating news media should be subject to oversight. (NYT)


Atheists in U.S. military seek official recognition Some in the loosely knit but apparently growing movement of military atheists see the recognition of lay leaders as a step toward the appointment of nonbelieving chaplains, who would be responsible — like the priests, ministers, rabbis and imams now in uniform — for responding to the spiritual needs of service members. Reactions so far, they say, have ranged from perplexity to hostility.(LAT)

Court sides with Davidson College police The case of a woman accused of driving drunk on streets near Davidson College sparked a state Supreme Court ruling Thursday that helps define the power of campus police forces at educational institutions with religious affiliations. (News & Observer)

Anti-Shariah activists applaud Tenn. for legislative efforts Speakers at a conference of conservative activists that focused on the threat of Islamic extremism in America praised Tennessee for being at the forefront of legislative efforts to fight it. (AP)

Congressman proposes land swap to protect Jesus statue The Forest Service has warned that current laws and past court decisions could be stacked against allowing it to lease land for the Jesus statue. In reviewing its decision, however, the agency noted that eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places could help the monument. (AP)

Jamestown Thought to Yield Ruins of Oldest U.S. Protestant Church The discovery has excited scholars and preservationists, and unearthed a long-hidden dimension of religious life in the first permanent colony. (NYT)

Wis. governor re-christens Capitol evergreen ‘Christmas tree’ Walker said this week that the evergreen decorated with ornaments and adorned with a star in the center of Wisconsin’s Capitol Rotunda is a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree as it has been called for the past 25 years. (AP)


Officials crack down on Occupy Wall Street camps around the country The “Occupy Wall Street” movement, now into its third month, has seen incidents of recent violence. With some public spaces turning unsafe and unsanitary, many officials say it’s time for them to control the situation. (CSM)

Protesters' Dilemma: Less Space to Occupy Protesters in other cities have set up in spacious parks, where there's room to grow. Not so in Manhattan. Zuccotti Park is two-thirds of an acre and is hemmed in by marble walls in some places and in others by watchful police officers who make protesters remove dwellings that cross the line between park and sidewalk. (WSJ)

What percentage will weather the winter? Spokesman Micah Philbrook acknowledged that the group will need to create a "winter occupation," one that will allow the movement to maintain momentum and protect the health and safety of protesters. (CT)

Dallas mayor to Occupy Dallas: 'Safety first; freedom of speech second' Occupy Dallas protesters are settling in at their campsite behind City Hall. That is something the city doesn't want, and Mayor Mike Rawlings on Wednesday said the public safety will come first. (WFAA)

Police peacefully evict Occupy Oakland tent city In an early morning raid, police peacefully evicted the Occupy Oakland camp that has been pitched outside of City Hall for more than a month. (Oakland Tribune)

Occupy Portland: Parks empty after tense clash; now protesters try to regroup The predawn confrontation that Occupy Portland protesters prepared for this weekend unfolded instead in daylight hours Sunday, after throngs of supporters had gone home to sleep and at a time when bleary-eyed campers were caught unaware. (Oregonian)

Student Freedoms


Calif. school can bar students’ American flag T-shirts Public school officials in Morgan Hill, Calif., did not violate the First Amendment rights of students by prohibiting them from wearing American flag T-shirts on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo (May 5), a federal judge has ruled. (FAC)

Op-ed: How could court find U.S. flag T-shirt disruptive? Three concepts explain how this could happen in a society that’s supposed to preserve and protect freedom of speech: (1) totality of the circumstances, (2) heckler’s veto and (3) deference to school officials. (FAC)

Three years later, 'Julius RIP' T-shirt case headed to trial The two-year legal saga stemming from a Nebraska high school’s actions to curb what it claimed was “gang-related” speech will proceed to the courtroom after a judge denied the school district’s motion for dismissal Tuesday. (SPLC)


Iowa court grants students broad free-press rights An Iowa court ruled yesterday that a school district could not discipline a newspaper adviser for allowing students to publish material that upset the administration. The decision was hailed by free-press advocates as an important victory for journalism teachers and students. (AP)

Wash. appeals court to hear Puyallup student newspaper case Four years after students at a Washington high school sued their school district for invasion of privacy over a student newspaper story, an appeals court is set to hear their case in January. (SPLC)

Op-ed: College Press Reporters Have Same First Amendment Rights As Working Professionals The arrests reflect a need for greater understanding of the important role that students play as front-line news-gatherers.(East Atlanta Patch)

The Struggle Continues

Worker's rights

Ohio collective bargaining law defeated in blow to GOP governor, victory for unions The state’s new collective bargaining law was defeated Tuesday after an expensive union-backed campaign that pitted firefighters, police officers and teachers against the Republican establishment. (AP)

Two decades after Anita Hill: how workplaces are handling sexual harassment The drop in claims may reflect better workplace training on sexual harassment – or it may simply reflect a challenging economic climate that makes employees more fearful of reporting sexual harassment for fear of jeopardizing their jobs or career advancement, says David Yamada, a Suffolk University law professor and president of the New Workplace Institute in Boston. (CSM)

Abortion and reproductive rights

Women out Front in Defeat of MS Abortion Measure Defying Mississippi's conservative reputation, women voters appeared to lead the charge against a ballot measure that sought to ban abortion, and could've made some birth control illegal and deterred doctors from doing in vitro fertilization. (AP)

Federal court orders N.Y. to allow ‘Choose Life’ plates A federal judge has ordered New York officials to allow “Choose Life” license plates requested by an anti-abortion group, concluding that their repeated refusal violated the free-speech rights of the Children First Foundation. (AP)

State to review decision on 'Choose Life' plates New York officials plan to review a federal court decision last week that orders the state to permit a "Choose Life" custom license plate after a decade-long battle with pro-life groups. (Democrat and Chornicle)

Issa’s D.C. budget autonomy bill would ban city-funded abortions The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has included in his measure a provision that would prohibit D.C. from spending its own taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for low-income women except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, according to a draft of the bill obtained by The Washington Post. (NYT)

Crime and punishment

La. prisons can’t ban Nation of Islam newspaper Louisiana state prisons can’t justify barring inmates from receiving copies of a newspaper published by the Nation of Islam, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday. (AP)

Florida Prisoner Suing Over ‘Cruel And Unusual’ Soy-Based Meals Eric Harris, a 32-year-old convicted pedophile who is serving a life sentence, suggests Lake Correctional Institution’s policy of serving a vegan diet is seriously affecting the quality of his life sentence. (CBS Tampa)

Gun rights

Felons Finding It Easy to Get Gun Rights Reinstated Under federal law, people with felony convictions forfeit their right to bear arms. Yet every year, thousands of felons across the country have those rights reinstated, often with little or no review.(NYT)

Lawmakers toss need for 4 hours of gun training Wisconsin's concealed-carry permits will no longer require minimum learning time.(MJS)

Local weapons classes feel impact of decision Interestingly enough, many of those who attended Blackhawk Tech's firearms safety course last week identified themselves as experienced, well-trained gun owners. They weren't there to relearn basics like loading and unloading a chamber, but rather, were seeking better understanding of Wisconsin's new law, many said. (Beloit Daily News)

Privacy rights

Twitter Ordered to Yield Data in WikiLeaks Case The case has become a flash point for online privacy and speech, in part because the Justice Department sought the information without a search warrant last year. Instead, on the basis of a 1994 law called the Stored Communications Act, the government demanded that Twitter provide the Internet protocol addresses of three of its users, among other things.(NYT)

When Sites Drag the Unwitting Across the Web The Klout kerfuffle is a parable of what can happen when you have an active digital social life. Not only do you leave your own digital footprints everywhere, but you can also drag your online friends with you from site to site, even if they have no interest in going there. (NYT)

Targets of NYPD surveillance may have little legal recourse Many of the targets feel they have little recourse — and because privacy laws have weakened dramatically since 9/11, they may be right, legal experts say. (AP)

Op-ed: The Supreme Court has a chance to keep Big Brother at bay GPS and smartphone devices help us find our way to new restaurants, but they also help the government come along for the ride. Should our embrace of these modern conveniences mean that we forfeit our right to relative anonymity when we travel in public? (WP)

Property rights

Changes to illegal-entry law offered A small group of legislators has recommended changes to Indiana law following a controversial decision on whether Hoosiers can forcefully resist illegal entry by police. The Indiana Supreme Court found in May that citizens have no right under common law to reasonably resist police who unlawfully enter their homes. (Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette)

Justice and the Courts

Federal courts

US appeals court upholds Obama health care law A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington issued a split opinion upholding the lower court's ruling that found Congress did not overstep its authority in requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty on their taxes, beginning in 2014. (AP)

Supreme Court

Supreme Court will hear health care case this term The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear arguments next March over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul—a case that could shake the political landscape as voters are deciding if Obama deserves another term.(AP)

Court to look at life in prison for juveniles The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether juveniles convicted of killing someone may be locked up for life with no chance of parole, a follow-up to last year's ruling barring such sentences for teenagers whose crimes do not include killing. (AP)

Despite title, Supreme Court not always last word Nothing about the Supreme Court — not its magnificent building atop Capitol Hill nor its very title — suggests that its word is anything other than final. Yet federal appellate judges and even state court judges sometimes find ways to insist on an outcome the Supreme Court has rejected. (AP)

This Day in History

On November 15, 1777 after 16 months of debate, the Continental Congress, sitting in its temporary capital of York, Pennsylvania, agrees to adopt the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Not until March 1, 1781, would the last of the 13 states, Maryland, ratify the agreement. The Articles of Confederation was the governing document of the U.S. until the U.S. Constitution replaced it in 1789.(

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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