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

February 21, 2012

Five Freedoms


Federal court deals blow to Michael Jordan in ‘ad’ lawsuit A federal judge has ruled that a national grocery store chain’s reference to Michael Jordan in an ad-like magazine layout was constitutionally protected free speech — a decision that thwarts the former Chicago Bulls player’s bid for control of his billion-dollar image. (AP)

Talk show hosts on Los Angeles radio station suspended for comments about Whitney Houston A Los Angeles radio station has pulled two popular talk radio hosts off the air for comments they made about Whitney Houston. (AP)

Teacher sues CPS after suspension for slur during ‘teachable moment’ A white teacher who says he was disciplined for using the n-word in a “teachable moment” about the perils of racism with his sixth-grade class has filed a federal lawsuit, alleging his black principal and Chicago Public Schools violated his civil rights by suspending him without pay for five days. (CST)

Teacher Suspended for 'Go Back to Mexico' Comment A two-time “Teacher of the Year” in Arlington is now fighting to keep her job after allegedly telling a Hispanic student to “Go back to Mexico.” (HP)

Op-ed: When It Comes to the Free Speech Rights of Teachers, the Joke's on Us As First Amendment Center scholar David Hudson explains, "The Garcetti decision caused a sea change in public-employee First Amendment jurisprudence, as many employees who speak out on important issues or blow the whistle on corruption no longer have a constitutional claim." (HP)

Minn. school board ends policy blamed for bullying Minnesota's largest school district has abandoned a much-criticized policy that required teachers to remain neutral when issues of sexual identity arose in the classroom, replacing it with a policy designed to create respectful discussion about controversial topics. (AP)

ESPN Fires Employee For Jeremy Lin Racist Headline The cable television sports network ESPN fired an employee responsible for an offensive headline about Knicks basketball sensation Jeremy Lin. (AP)

Arizona bill takes aim at airbrushed women in ads Women have wrinkles, pores and curves. And there's a movement across the world to make sure advertisers can no longer pretend otherwise. Now, that movement has come to Arizona.(Arizona Republic)

Gingrich refuses to release ethics documents Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich yesterday refused to ask the Justice Department to release thousands of records from the House Ethics Committee’s investigation into his conduct as speaker in the 1990s. (AP)

Gov. Snyder signs bills keeping protests far from funerals Snyder’s office announced late Tuesday that bills signed would make it a felony to protest or otherwise engage in disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral, memorial service, viewing, procession or burial. (

Court tosses La. law banning sex offenders from Facebook A federal judge threw out a Louisiana law banning certain sex offenders from Facebook and other social-networking sites, saying it was an unreasonable restriction on constitutionally protected speech that could keep them off the Internet entirely. (AP)

Fairborn Sweet Corn Festival violated religious free speech, court rules The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel ruled unanimously that a festival policy against solicitation from individuals who were not working at a booth was too extensive, unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment. The panel reversed an earlier decision by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Rose from the Southern District of Ohio. (Dayton Daily News)

Does PETA ad featuring a young, pantsless woman in a neckbrace promote veganism, or offend? PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is known for its provocative ads--many of them featuring women in various states of undress--that aim to draw attention (however indirectly) to animal rights. But their latest ad, a Valentine's Day video that warns women about the "dangers" of their boyfriends' burgeoning veganism, may have crossed a line. (Yahoo News)

PETA campaign director defends controversial vegan ad: ‘The underlying message is a helpful one’ On Tuesday, Yahoo News spoke with Lindsay Rajt, PETA's associate director of campaigns and outreach, about the ad, the campaign and the subsequent backlash. (Yahoo News)

Ark. high court says use-of-force reports are public record Reports from police officers that explain why they use force against someone are not exempt from the state’s public-records law, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled yesterday. (AP)

Whitney Houston: N.J. governor defends lowering flags for singer New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has strongly defended his decision to have flags flown at half-staff Saturday for Whitney Houston, despite receiving emails and other messages disparaging the singer and criticizing him. (AP)

Bettendorf could ban tattoos from parks The Bettendorf Park Board is considering a policy that would address the tattoos, piercings and attire that a guest is allowed to display at their city facilities. (WQAD)

Md. judge hears arguments in federal suit over seized camera phone, deleted videos A federal judge Monday denied a motion to dismiss a suit that alleges Baltimore city officers violated a Maryland man’s constitutional rights when they deleted videos from his mobile phone after he recorded a confrontation between officers and a friend. (AP)


2nd Circuit agrees: no subpoena for reporter’s notes Relying on New York’s shield law, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 15 upheld a trial judge’s decision to quash a subpoena directed at former Wall Street Journal reporter Jesse Eisinger. (FAC)

At Work in Syria, Times Correspondent Dies The death of Mr. Shadid, an American of Lebanese descent who had a wife and two children, abruptly ended one of the most storied careers in modern American journalism. Fluent in Arabic, with a gifted eye for detail and contextual writing, Mr. Shadid captured dimensions of life in the Middle East that many others failed to see.(NYT)

Judges rule for wild horse advocate A photographer and leading wild horse protection advocate who says her First Amendment rights were violated when she was denied access to mustang roundups in Nevada has scored a victory in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel in San Francisco overturned a lower court ruling Tuesday and sent the case back to a federal judge in Reno to determine if the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's restrictions on media access to roundups are constitutional. (AP)


George: Government impinging on religious freedoms regarding contraception Cardinal Francis George restated the conference’s call to rescind the so-called contraceptives mandate, saying that it violates religious freedom under the First Amendment and threatens the influence of the Catholic Church. A chief concern of the church, he said, is that the federal government is attempting to strip it of its public voice. (CT)

Judge Grants Churches a Reprieve Days before the city was to close public schools to religious groups that have been holding services there, a federal judge issued a ruling on Thursday that reopened the schools for worship, caught city officials off guard, and could set the stage for years of legal battles. (NYT)

Rutherford sheriff hires mosque foe to train deputies A former FBI agent who claims Nashville’s mosques have no legal right to exist is training the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office about Islam and the threats of terrorism. (The Tennessean)

Mormons apologize for proxy Wiesenthal baptism Mormon church leaders have apologized to the family of Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal after his parents were posthumously baptized in a Mormon temple ritual last month. (AP)

Utah pays $388K to resolve roadside-crosses case Utah is paying nearly $400,000 to resolve a lawsuit over roadside crosses honoring Utah troopers killed in the line of duty, officials said Feb. 17. (AP)


Lawyers for Occupy protesters say city crackdown was practice for summits Attorneys for the protesters say the First Amendment right to free speech trumped any laws governing park hours. But city attorney Linda Pauel argued that the demonstrators' right to free speech does not extend to all-night protests in city parks. (CT)

Secret Service, Chicago cops answer G-8 security questions at business forum Chicago police and federal officials have provided some of their most candid comments to date on how they expect to handle potentially violent protests surrounding the upcoming G-8 and NATO summits here in the spring, urging the local business community to remain calm as the events approach. (CT)

Police Evict Occupy Newark Protesters Authorities swept in shortly after midnight Wednesday and ended what appeared to be a relatively harmonious co-existence between the city of Newark and its occupiers. (NYT)

Court strikes down Chester ordinance against loitering The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled last month that a Chester, Pa., ordinance making it illegal to loiter in a "high drug activity area" is unconstitutional.  (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Student Freedoms


Mo. district told to stop filtering gay websites A federal judge has ordered a central Missouri school district to stop using Internet filtering software to restrict access to educational websites about gay, lesbian and transgender issues. (AP)

Op-ed: Football and free speech College football players may be prone to making bad choices, but failing to respect their First Amendment rights is a mistake, too. (BS)

Op-ed: Good intentions, bad bill The problem is its breadth. Currently, schools can punish students for unlawful off-campus behavior that interferes with educational functions. HB 1169 would remove "unlawful," presumably leaving young people open to suspension or expulsion for an infinite variety of actions -- including speech and writing -- that educators found irksome. (Indianapolis Star)


NYPD monitored Muslim students across Northeast The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students more broadly than previously known and at schools far beyond the city limits, including Ivy League colleges Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, the Associated Press has learned. (AP)

Colorado student quits high school choir over Islamic song praising 'Allah' James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing "Zikr," a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials. When the school stood by choir director Marcia Wieland's selection, Harper said, he quit. (Fox News)

Generations fight for principle over prayer What the 71-year-old physicist from Medford and the 16-year-old high school junior from Cranston, R.I., share is the same defiant intellect. In 1956, when he was a 16-year-old high school junior outside Philadelphia, Schempp challenged the morning ritual of reading 10 Bible passages, known as “Morning Devotions,” in his public school classroom. (BH)

Cranston Votes Not to Appeal Prayer Banner Case A Rhode Island public school committee on Thursday voted not to appeal a federal court decision ordering the removal of a prayer banner displayed in a high school. (AP)


Strict new French Quarter curfew nets almost 200 Mardi Gras arrests The newly strengthened curfew regulations apply seven days a week, but only in the French Quarter and the nearby Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Other areas of the city will continue to enforce an 11 p.m. curfew for those under 16, which was already on the books. (CNN)

Civil rights

Court hears challenge to CA affirmative action ban Backers of affirmative action asked a federal appeals court Monday to overturn California's 15-year-old ban on considering race in public college admissions, citing a steep drop in black, Latino and Native American students at the state's elite campuses. (AP)

Privacy rights

Stevenson board president: ‘Our hearts go out’ to students struggling with drug abuse School officials have confirmed they confiscated students’ cellphones and viewed text messages on those phones to glean information about drug-dealing and find other students involved. (CT)

NC Supreme Court hears student bra search case The state’s high court heard oral arguments in the case involving a student known only as T.A.S — unidentified in court because she was 15 years old when the “bra-lift search’’ occurred at the Brunswick County Academy in 2008. The justices will decide whether the search violated the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches. (AP)

Gender equity

 Girl wrestler makes history in Iowa Meet Megan Black, a female wrestler. Last year, Black and Cassy Herkelman were the first girls to qualify for the renowned Iowa state wrestling tournament. Herkelman was in the spotlight after being the first girl to win a match after her male opponent refused to wrestle against her. This year, however, it's Black's year to shine: She's become the first female to win a contested match in state history. (CBS)

Schoolgirls excluded from Dallas movie screening A spokesman for the Dallas Independent School District said officials took only boys to see "Red Tails" Thursday because space at the movie theater was limited. Jon Dahlander told The Dallas Morning News that leaders of the district also thought boys would enjoy the movie more than girls. (AP)

The Struggle Continues

Civil rights

Op-ed: The Lovings: unsung heroes of the civil rights movement In 1967, six years later, Loving v. Virginia, a Supreme Court decision with a memorable name, legalized marriage between those of different races. The Loving decision is perhaps the most forgotten milestone in civil rights history. (CNN)


Federal judge delays decision on constitutionality of Utah’s immigration enforcement law If U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups decides to wait, the law created by House Bill 497 will remain on hold for about another six months. It was first blocked by Waddoups eight months ago, 14 hours after it went effect. (AP)

Native American rights

Higher Crime, Fewer Charges on Indian Land The low rate of prosecutions for these crimes by United States attorneys, who along with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation generally have jurisdiction for the most serious crimes on reservations, has been a longstanding point of contention for tribes, who say it amounts to a second-class system of justice that encourages law breaking. Prosecutors, however, say they turn down most reservation cases because of a lack of admissible evidence. (NYT)

Abortion and reproductive rights

Oklahoma Senate passes Personhood Act, saying life begins at conception The first bill of the session passed by the Oklahoma Senate was an anti-abortion statement that life begins at the moment of conception, approved by senators Wednesday after two hours of debate.(The Oklahoman)

Ultrasound Abortion Bill Nears Vote in Virginia If it is adopted, Virginia will become the eighth state to require ultrasounds before abortions, a rule that anti-abortion forces hope will cause some women to change their minds but that women’s advocates call an effort to shame women and interfere with their privacy.(NYT)

Crime and punishment

State lawmakers tackling controversial DNA bill A controversial new bill would require suspects to give a DNA sample as soon as they're arrested, but some people argue the law would be unconstitutional. Opponents of the bill say it could violate Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure, but supporters say public safety should outweigh that risk. (KOMO)

Death penalty

Ohio Supreme Court justice rejects death penalty law he wrote As a young state senator 30 years ago, Paul Pfeifer helped write Ohio’s death penalty law. Today, as the senior member of the state Supreme Court, he is trying to eliminate it. (AP)

Disability rights

California Man With Half an Arm Sues Starbucks, Alleging Discrimination In court documents filed on Feb. 8 at the Superior Court of the State of California in the County of San Diego, Eli Pierre, who was born with half of a left arm, alleged he "was not hired for the position because of his disability, despite his capable work history." (ABC)

Elections and voting

G.O.P. Campaigns Grow More Dependent on ‘Super PAC’ Aid Weeks of intense campaigning in the early nominating states have left the leading Republican presidential candidates increasingly dependent on millions of dollars spent on their behalf by outside “super PACs,” reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday showed. (NYT)

High court blocks Mont. campaign-money ruling The Supreme Court on Feb. 17 blocked a Montana court ruling upholding limits on corporate campaign spending. The state court ruling appears to be at odds with the high court’s 2010 decision striking down a federal ban on those campaign expenditures. (AP)

1st Circuit dismisses candidate’s defamation suit Recognizing that “[c]ampaigning for public office sometimes has the feel of a contact sport,” the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 10 in Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Committee affirmed the dismissal of a defamation action brought by an unsuccessful political candidate against a group advertising against him. (FAC)

The Electoral College Explained Author Kenneth C. Davis explains this most confusing of Election Day quirks.(ABC News)

Gay rights

N.J. Gov. Christie vetoes gay marriage bill The veto came a day after the state Assembly passed the bill. The state Senate had passed it on Monday. Christie, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, had vowed "very swift action" once the bill reached his desk. (CBS)

Gun rights

McCann introduces bill to eliminate FOID cards The program that issues mandatory ID cards to gun owners in Illinois would be discontinued under legislation proposed by state Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville. (State Journal-Register)

Bill proposes massive overhaul to Georgia gun laws Georgians would be allowed to carry concealed weapons in bars, public schools, most government buildings, college campuses and other locations under a sweeping gun bill filed in the House. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Mich. gun advocates support Starbucks' open-carry policy Sheri Donofrio took the steps necessary to carry a weapon where allowed by law. So when the Roseville resident learned a national group was boycotting Starbucks locations nationwide on Valentine's Day because the coffee chain welcomes customers who open-carry their weapons, she joined other gun advocates at a Roseville Starbucks on Tuesday to support the chain. (Detroit News)

More Va. gun-rights bills clear full Senate, committee City, town and county employees could store firearms and ammunition in personal cars at work under a bill that cleared a Virginia Senate committee Monday. The bill, which originated in the House, now goes to the full Senate, which earlier this session repealed Virginia’s one-per-month limit on handgun purchases, and on Monday passed several other gun-rights bills.(WP)

Homeland Security

NSC wants rules on research that could lead to biological weapons The National Security Council is moving to exert greater federal control over scientific studies of highly lethal diseases and toxins in the face of mounting fears that the research could be used by terrorists and rogue states, according to people with knowledge of the process. (LAT)

Privacy rights

Woman: TSA workers think I'm 'cute,' scanned me three times at Dallas airport A Dallas woman says she was forced to undergo three body scans by TSA workers because she has a "cute" figure - and she's not the only woman complaining about passenger "peep shows" at America’s airports. (New York Daily News)

Calif. lawmaker cites Demi Moore 911 call in seeking to limit info A state lawmaker upset over details revealed in a recent emergency call involving actress Demi Moore is seeking to restrict the sort of information that can be publicly disclosed in 911 tapes. (AP)

Drones May Set Off a Flurry of Lawsuits Unmanned aerial vehicles can not only take photos and videos, they can also spot heat sources, read car license plate numbers, and perhaps soon capture other information about people and things down below. (NYT)

Colorado woman must turn over computer password A federal appeals court in Denver refuses to get involved in a mortgage and real estate fraud case that raises questions about whether turning over a computer password amounts to self-incrimination. (AP)

Property rights

Wythe County farmer settles suit with VDOT For Jennings, the settlement comes after seven years of litigation — and nearly a lifetime of seeing his family's land taken through the power of eminent domain to make way for roads, electric lines and gas lines. (Roanoke Times)

Justice and the Courts

Supreme Court

Supreme Court to review Stolen Valor Act, which criminalizes lying about military honors The case has generated huge interest and divided First Amendment advocates, including the media, and veterans groups, who see the act as a necessary weapon to discourage what appears to a boomlet of self-aggrandizers. (WP)

Op-ed: Is There a Right to Lie? If the Supreme Court were to accept the government’s argument, other disconcerting legislation could easily follow. Congress could enact a law that criminalized false claims by political candidates about their qualifications for office, or false claims about their opponents.(NYT)

Supreme Court will consider challenge to affirmative action at University of Texas The court said Tuesday it will return to the issue of affirmative action in higher education for the first time since its 2003 decision endorsing the use of race as a factor in admissions. This time around, a more conservative court is being asked to outlaw the use of Texas’ affirmative action plan and possibly to jettison the earlier ruling entirely. (AP)

This Day in History

On February 21, 1972 President Richard Nixon takes a dramatic first step toward normalizing relations with the communist People's Republic of China (PRC) by traveling to Beijing for a week of talks. Nixon's historic visit began the slow process of the re-establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and communist China. (

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.