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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February 14, 2012

Five Freedoms


Nicki Minaj's 'Exorcism': Catholic League Blasts Artist's Grammys Performance Minaj showed up on the red carpet with a man dressed like the Pope and, when she took the stage, she levitated, spoke in tongues and acted possessed. (HP)

Bill aims to censor Arizona teachers' speech A group of Republican state lawmakers is backing legislation that would require teachers to limit their speech to words that comply with Federal Communications Commission regulations on what can be said on TV or radio. The FCC regulations limit obscene, indecent and profane speech. (Arizona Republic)

Baltimore police: Public can record officers City police released a department policy telling officers that members of the public have the right to record officers carrying out their duties. The Feb. 10 release came just ahead of today’s scheduled hearing on a lawsuit over the issue. (AP)

Schultz wants to reject 'offensive' business names Some at the Capitol say giving the secretary of state that power treads a First Amendment line. (Des Moines Register)

Company asks dismissal of Confederate flag case Married and the father of four young children, Webber was fired last March after refusing bus company orders to take down the flag, cover it, or park some distance away from school property.(AP)

States slowly opening courts to cameras All 50 have declared themselves willing to open up some court business to cameras, although the levels of openness vary from state to state.(

CNN suspends Roland Martin for anti-gay tweets The CNN commentator and former Chicago radio host offended gays with a series of Twitter remarks during Sunday's game, and the news network announced his suspension Wednesday. (CT)

Madonna Calls M.I.A.’s Super Bowl Stunt ‘Out of Place,’ ‘Irrelevant’ Madonna called into “On Air with Ryan Seacrest” today to publicly share her thoughts on the controversy. (ABC)

M.I.A.'s Middle Finger Could Be Expensive for NBC The network made a late attempt to blur it out, but the middle finger of Super Bowl halftime performer M.I.A. appeared crystal clear before some 110 million viewers last night and NBC and its affiliates could pay a hefty fine. (Atlantic Wire)

Op-ed: Marvel Comics’ Troubling Origins Story If Mitt Romney is right, and corporations are people, perhaps Marvel/Disney has the capacity to feel shame.(Slate)

Breastfeeding moms hold Facebook nurse-in protest Mothers angry at the way Facebook has taken down photos of women breastfeeding their children staged nurse-in demonstrations Monday at the company's new Menlo Park headquarters and satellite offices around the world. (SC)

McDonalds pulls ad after pit bull owner outrage The ad said eating a Chicken McBite was less risky than petting a stray pit bull, shaving your head, naming your son Sue or giving friends your Facebook password. It enraged pit bull owners and their supporters. (AP)

Op-ed: Rise of Online Organizing Makes Internet Crowd a Must-Win Constituency The Internet not only narrows the participation gap between young and old, it lends a powerful platform to a typically quiet constituency -- we've grabbed the bullhorn and, all of a sudden, our agenda is beginning to resonate. (HP)

Demoted Portland policeman sues city and officials McLerran alleges that his First Amendment right of free speech as a public employee to criticize public officials was violated and that three councilmen maliciously defamed him, or made public statements that placed him in a false light. He could receive up to $8 million in damages, according to the 24-page lawsuits filed in January at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville. (Tennessean)

1 Chicago cop sues another over alleged Facebook defamation A Chicago Police captain is suing a fellow officer for allegedly posting defamatory comments about him on Facebook, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in Circuit Court of Cook County. (CT)

Mich. judge: Team reviewing Detroit finances must meet publicly A state-appointed review team analyzing the city of Detroit’s finances should meet publicly, a judge has ruled, a legal setback for Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration that may leave the review team’s process in limbo. (AP)

Embalmer takes speech case to Mass. high court After his comments were published in The Boston Phoenix, the state board that licenses funeral directors and embalmers revoked his license. Now Schoeller is challenging that punishment before the highest court in Massachusetts, arguing the revocation violates his constitutional right to free speech. (AP)

Conviction on racial-slur charge reversed in Ohio A Dayton, Ohio, woman who uttered racial slurs at a mailman after he sprayed repellent on her dog had her ethnic-intimidation conviction overturned by a divided state appeals court.(FAC)


Biden says press freedom is critical to government A government can’t function fairly and transparently without freedom of the press or expression, Vice President Joe Biden told an Ohio newspaper trade group yesterday. (AP)


Obama announces contraception compromise President Barack Obama announced a compromise Friday in the dispute over whether to require full contraception insurance coverage for female employees at religiously affiliated institutions. (CNN)

Obama Decision on Contraceptives Won't Stop Legislative Push Blunt plans to continue to push for legislation to force an up-or-down vote in Congress on the entire rule, which only grants limited religious exemptions to churches on requirements that employers provide contraceptives.(UNWP)

Op-ed: Will contraception-rule change relieve religious conscience? It has been observed that because religious-affiliated entities take government money, they should comply with government mandates. But religious institutions use federal funds to provide services in which they believe, which are part of their religious mission. (FAC)

Bloomberg Defends Schools’ Ouster of Worship Services Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Monday strongly defended his administration’s decision to ban churches from holding services in public schools, pushing back against criticism from some religious leaders and elected officials. (NYT)

Kylie Bisutti left lingerie modeling because it didn't mesh with her Christian values The California native, now 21, said that in the wake of baring her body as an Angel, she was also hosting parties, posing for men’s magazines, and craving more and more attention. But she was not feeling good about herself. (Fox)

Religious license plates for sale in SC; group who sued over ‘I Believe’ plates says these OK A federal judge ruled in 2009 that “I Believe” tags that legislators created with a state law violated the First Amendment ban on establishment of religion by government. These new tags were not created by a state law.(AP)

Are Church Confessions Safe? Court To Hear Arguments In a case that could set national precedent, the three-judge Michigan Court of Appeals panel plans to hear arguments Thursday about whether a pastor’s testimony related to a possible confession in a child sexual assault case may be used in court. (CBS Detroit)

Op-ed: Supreme Court was right to side with Mennonites In this case, state and county regulations tolerate wear and tear on roads from heavy trucks and emergency vehicles equipped with tire chains and studs. An exception also should be made for Mennonite farmers who otherwise face a difficult choice between following the law of their state or the law of their church. (Des Moines Register)


Chicago to pay $6.2 million to settle suit over 2003 protest The city of Chicago has hammered out a $6.2 million settlement over a class-action lawsuit that had accused police of unlawfully arresting more than 700 people during a 2003 Iraq war demonstration, attorneys announced yesterday. (AP)

New York to pay $15 million in wrongful loitering arrests New York City has agreed to pay a total of $15 million in compensation to some 22,000 people who were illegally arrested or issued citations over three decades under loitering laws long ago ruled unconstitutional, according to a class-action settlement. (Reuters)

With same-sex marriage victories on their side, gay rights advocates picket Holy Name The sidewalk outside the downtown church is popular territory for protests, but some participants said they felt special hope because of victories in two other states and the introduction of the same-sex marriage bill in Springfield on Wednesday.(CT)


Amish man’s letters sway Ky. lawmakers on buggy issue The simple, heart-felt letters of an old-fashioned Amish man are being credited for the Senate’s quick passage of a bill that would allow Kentucky’s Amish residents to use reflective tape on their horse-drawn buggies instead of the bright orange triangular signs that they object to on religious grounds. (AP)

Student Freedoms


City sticker design yanked, but not without pain As controversy swirled, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza weighed concerns from some quarters that gang signs adorned the new city sticker against the feelings of a 15-year-old boy who said winning the contest to design the decal was the best thing that ever happened to him. (CT)

Virginia school district considers cross-dressing ban for students The Suffolk Board of Education plans to take up the issue at a meeting Thursday night, amid criticism that such a ban would violate students' First Amendment rights. The proposal explicitly bans clothing "not in keeping with a student's gender," distracts others from the educational process or poses health concerns. (Fox)

Arlington High School lifts ban on school dances With new rules about inappropriate dancing in place and the promise of more breathalyzers to weed out students who have been drinking, Arlington High School is lifting a moratorium on school dances put in place last fall. (BG)

Denver student could face jail time for attempted Mitt Romney "glitter bomb" A 20-year-old college student faces up to a year in prison after police say he tried to throw glitter on Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as the candidate greeted supporters in Denver following Colorado's caucuses on Tuesday. (CBS)

Judge upholds ban on 'boobies' bracelets at Wis. middle school A federal judge on Monday upheld a Wisconsin middle school’s ban on “I (Heart) Boobies” breast cancer awareness bracelets, finding the ban does not violate students’ free expression rights. (SPLC)

Ind. student takes fight to wear ‘boobies’ bracelet to court An Indiana eighth grader sued his school district in federal court yesterday for the right to wear a bracelet promoting breast cancer awareness with the message “I (heart) Boobies.” (AP)

Western Mass. ACLU finds University soliciting policy unconstitutional At the request of Student Government Association Attorney General Kyle Howard, the Western Massachusetts chapter of the individual rights organization the American Civil Liberties Union has reviewed the University of Massachusetts’ soliciting policy and found numerous aspects of it to be in violation of the United States Constitution. (Daily Collegian)

Minnesota Supreme Court to rule on the off-campus speech rights of college students The Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case that will set important precedent on a public university’s ability to discipline students for off-campus comments about school activity. (SPLC)


Newspaper theft at Southern Indiana may be linked to coverage of student government, Greek community At least 400 copies of The Shield student newspaper went missing Wednesday evening in an apparent newspaper theft at the University of Southern Indiana. (SPLC)

The Struggle Continues

Civil rights

Virginia’s Caroline County, ‘symbolic of Main Street USA’ About 6 percent of Caroline Middle School's population is multiracial, a statistic that would not be possible without Mildred and Richard Loving, a couple from the school's county whose Supreme Court case 45 years ago paved the way for mixed-race marriages.(WP)

Gender equity

Pentagon to ease restrictions on women in combat The Pentagon plans to ease restrictions on women serving in combat, which will open 14,000 new and potentially more dangerous jobs to female troops, mostly in the Army and Marine Corps. (LAT)


American kids denied food stamps in Alabama under immigration law Some U.S.-born children with parents who are illegal immigrants have been denied food stamps under Alabama's new immigration law, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen told Yahoo News on Monday. (Yahoo News)

Native American rights

Petition signers not giving up UND nickname fight The nickname was resurrected after residents generated 17,000 signatures seeking to put the issue to a statewide vote. As part of that process, a since-repealed state law requiring the school to use the nickname went back into effect — even though the university, the state Board of Higher Education and local lawmakers want it gone. (AP)

Ariz. tribe declares eminent domain over Grand Canyon Skywalk, severs agreement with developer A northwestern Arizona tribe has voted to take over management of the Grand Canyon Skywalk from the Las Vegas developer who built it. (AP)


Killer whales denied anti-slavery protection A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to give killer whales at SeaWorld constitutional rights. (NBC)

Abortion and reproductive rights

Pa. vending machine dispenses 'morning-after' pill Students at Shippensburg University in central Pennsylvania can get the "morning-after" pill by sliding $25 into a vending machine installed at the request of the student government. (AP)

US judge says he can't block Texas sonogram law A federal judge on Monday upheld the Texas law requiring women to have a sonogram before having an abortion, saying an appeals court had forced him to declare the law constitutional. (AP)

Crime and punishment

2 inmates lose phone-related lawsuits in federal court Inmates don’t lose all their First Amendment rights when they enter the penal system, but they certainly don’t retain many. Two recent federal court decisions drive home this point. (FAC)

Juror could face jail time for 'friending' defendant Jacob Jock was selected for the jury in a car-wreck case in December and told the usual prohibitions. But when the judge learned Jock looked up the female defendant on Facebook and sent her a friend request, Jock was kicked off the jury and admonished. (USA)

Elections and voting

Judge slams critics of Texas school prayer ruling A federal judge who was vilified by Republican presidential hopefuls for banning prayer at a Texas high school graduation delivered a scathing and unusually personal response Thursday, saying those who used the case to further political goals "should be ashamed." (AP)

Obama campaign returning funds tied to Mexican fugitive President Barack Obama's re-election campaign is returning more than $200,000 in donations from the family of a fugitive casino magnate linked to violence and corruption in Mexico who has been seeking a pardon, Obama's campaign confirmed on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Tenn. ballot-access rules struck down A federal judge has ruled in favor of Tennessee’s Green and Constitution parties in their federal lawsuit that claimed laws on the books violated the state constitution by making it unreasonably hard for third parties to get their names on the ballots, the Johnson City Press reported. (AP)

S.C. sues federal government over voter ID law The law's proponents argue the law is intended to prevent voter fraud, though voter fraud prosecutions are quite rare. Opponents contend the law would disenfranchise racial minorities, the elderly, and young voters, all of whom are less likely to possess a photo ID.(CBS)

Gay rights

Gay marriage legal with governor's signature Same-sex couples won the right to marry on Monday. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a measure legalizing gay marriage in a ceremony in Olympia on Monday. It made Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage. (AP)

Constitution Check: Do Gay Couples Now Have a Constitutional Right to Get Married? The Court ruled in 1967, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, that it violated the Fourteenth Amendment to deny that fundamental right to couples based upon the differing races of the man and woman. But the Court has never ruled explicitly, as Judge Walker did, that the right exists for couples of the same sex. (HP)

Gun rights

Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants state handgun registry The request immediately ran into staunch opposition in Springfield, where gun control issues are often as much about geography as partisanship. (CT)

City Writes $399,950 Check To Gun Rights Group The check was a reimbursement for legal fees the foundation incurred in the McDonald v. Chicago case, which resulted in the United States Supreme Court overturning the city’s ban on handguns.(NBC)

Homeland Security

Two years after US breaks up Michigan militia, trial begins Seven members of a militia accused of plotting to overthrow the U.S. government stood trial Monday, with jurors to decide whether federal authorities prevented an attack by homegrown extremists or simply made too much of the boasts by weekend warriors who had pledged to "take our nation back." (CSM)

Privacy rights

What cops say could be taped Illinoisans would have permission to make audio recordings of police officers on duty and in a public place under a proposal that gained a measure of steam Wednesday. (CT)

Ill. audio-recording law under scrutiny In Illinois, documenting life in the era of smart phones and YouTube can result in felony charges.(AP)

Bill allows traffic stops just for insurance check A state lawmaker wants to allow law enforcement officers along Oklahoma roadways to be able to pull over a motorist just to check if their auto insurance is up to date. To drive a car in Oklahoma, you're required to have liability insurance.(KFOR)

Judge orders woman to provide unencrypted hard drive to prosecutors Civil-rights advocates have said a ruling by a Denver judge ordering a woman to unlock her computer for authorities chips away at constitutional protections in the digital age. (Greeley Gazette)

US Seeks to Mine Social Media to Predict Future The proposals already have raised privacy concerns among advocates who worry that such monitoring efforts could have a chilling effect on users.(AP)

Property rights

NH House passes eminent domain bill without debate The bill is championed by many North Country residents worried about the 180-mile transmission project using eminent domain to bring Canadian hydropower to southern New England. (AP)

Justice and the Courts

Supreme Court

FBI cuts back on GPS surveillance after Supreme Court ruling The bureau began implementing the change the day after the Jan. 23 ruling in which the court found that attaching such a device to a car amounted to a search covered by the Fourth Amendment, requiring police to seek warrants in many cases. (USA)

Free Speech Groups Say Stolen Valor Act Must Go In a free society replete with barstool braggarts and tall-tale tellers, there is no place for a federal law that makes it a crime to lie about receiving military honors, according to a raft of briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Courthouse News Service)

Senate panel backs bill to require cameras in Supreme Court U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin continues to push for legislation that would require the U.S. Supreme Court to televise its public proceedings. (AP)

US Supreme Court won't permit Ohio execution The status of a dozen Ohio executions scheduled over the next two years was uncertain following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Wednesday to allow a temporary delay in capital punishment to stay in place. (AP)

This Day in History

On February 14, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson presents the draft of the covenant for the League of Nations prepared by a League commission that had been established two weeks earlier.(

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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