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 7, 2012

Five Freedoms


Apologies from NFL, NBC after M.I.A. flips bird The NFL blamed NBC for being not quick enough to censor the gesture, while NBC noted that the NFL is responsible for the content of the halftime show. (AP)

Kan. appeals court: Man’s curses at ex-wife were fighting words A Kansas man’s curses at his ex-wife weren’t just profane, they were fighting words. A state appeals court has found that Kenneth Meadors’ verbal tirade consisted of unprotected fighting words rather than protected speech. (FAC)

9th Circuit won’t release gay-marriage trial videos A federal appeals court refused today to unseal video recordings of a landmark trial on the constitutionality of California’s same-sex marriage ban but said it needed more time to decide if a lower court judge properly struck down the voter-approved ban. (AP)

Former Survivor member sues Newt Gingrich for using ‘Eye of the Tiger’ Sullivan, who has a home in the northwest suburbs, insisted it’s not about politics. It’s about someone who should know better using his copyright material for free. (CST)

Op-ed: How states are restricting political speech Dina Galassini does not seem to pose a threat to Arizona’s civic integrity. But the government of this desert community believes that you cannot be too careful. And state law empowers local governments to be vigilant against the lurking danger that political speech might occur before the speakers notify the government and comply with all the speech rules. (WP)

Ga. court overturns assisted suicide restrictions Georgia's top court struck down a state law that restricted assisted suicides, siding on Monday with four members of a suicide group who said the law violated their free speech rights. (AP)

Op-ed: In censorship, Twitter fails to defend free speech Twitter's decision to start censoring tweets at the request of repressive governments represents a regrettable retreat from the free-flowing ethos that has made it such an essential social networking site. (SC)

Cops to talk "plain language" -- 10-4 is out Troopers were ordered this week to dispense with speaking in code. Gone is the familiar 10-4 and the unfamiliar (to civilians, anyway) 10-46. Instead, when speaking over the police radio, the trooper is to just say, "disabled vehicle." (BS)

U.S. shuts 16 sports piracy websites pre-Super Bowl Three days before Super Bowl XLVI, U.S. prosecutors said they seized 16 websites that illegally streamed live sports and pay-per-view events over the Internet, and charged a Michigan man with running nine of those websites. (Reuters)

‘We the People’ Loses Appeal With People Around the World There are lots of possible reasons. Our Constitution is terse and old, and it guarantees relatively few rights. The commitment of some members of the Supreme Court to interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning in the 18th century may send the signal that it is of little current use to, say, a new African nation.(NYT)

Protesters sue TVA over costume ban at meetings Several people who tried to go to a Tennessee Valley Authority board meeting in costumes including Santa Claus and a pirate are suing the utility, which banned such getups after people protesting a nuclear plant dressed up as zombies. (AP)

Twitter Talks Back to Sexist Super Bowl Ads This year, when advertisers used stereotypes and sex to hawk cars, flowers, and candy, viewers came up with a Twitter hashtag to broadcast their disgust: #NotBuyingIt. (Mother Jones)


The New York Times Has Had It with the NYPD Blocking its Photographers New York Police officers continue to interfere with photographers and reporters trying to cover news, and a New York Times photographer who was prevented from shooting an arrest at an Occupy Wall Street rally last weekend said police had reason to hide their actions from the press. (The Atlantic)

Filmmaker arrested at House subcommittee hearing An Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker was arrested at a House subcommittee hearing yesterday after trying to film the proceedings without the required media credentials. (AP)

Op-ed: Journalists are natural fit as debate moderators Such a role fits well in the First Amendment framework of a free press as a way to help us keep an eye on the government. But then there are the complicating factors. Many voters see journalists as biased, supporting one candidate or another, or simply as attack dogs more interested in controversy than information — not as the watchdogs on government envisioned by the nation’s Founders. (FAC)


Religious Condition Stirs Protest at a Caucus Site A special Saturday night Republican caucus here intended to accommodate Orthodox Jews who could not vote before sundown became the scene of controversy and confrontation after caucusgoers were told that to be admitted they had to sign a legal declaration under penalty of perjury that they could not attend their daytime caucus because of “my religious beliefs.” (NYT)

Contraception mandate outrages religious groups The Obama administration’s decision requiring church-affiliated employers to cover birth control was bound to cause an uproar among Roman Catholics and members of other faiths, no matter their beliefs on contraception. The regulation, finalized a week ago, raises a complex and sensitive legal question: Which institutions qualify as religious and can be exempt from the mandate? (AP)

Forsyth Co. Commissioners to Lead Non-sectarian Prayers at Meetings That decision -- reached by consensus rather than by a formal vote -- comes in reaction to court rulings that in 2010 stopped the county from allowing clergy members to pray as they chose. (Winston-Salem Journal)

Resolution to study Bible in public schools passes South Dakota Senate HCR 1004 calls for schools to offer "non-devotional" elective study of the Bible because of what it calls the book's historical and cultural significance. Its purpose, supporters say, is to remove the "fear" among schools that they can't teach about the Bible without violating the First Amendment. (Rapid City Journal)

Federal judge allows polygamy challenge to proceed Brown and his wives sued Buhman, Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in July 2011, claiming Utah’s bigamy statute violates their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, free exercise of religion, free speech and freedom of association. (AP)

Iowa high court overturns Mennonite’s steel-wheel citation The religious rights of a Mennonite teenager have prevailed over a northeast Iowa county’s concern about protecting its roads in an Iowa Supreme Court ruling. (AP)

Jesus statue gets reprieve to remain at Mont. ski resort The religious statue, which has been on federal land since 1955, was allowed to remain in place for at least 10 more years after the U.S. Forest Service reversed its eviction order yesterday. The initial decision came amid heated debate over the separation of church and state. (AP)

'Bible Man' OK'd by Jackson County school board After an hour’s deliberations, board members returned to the room to announce, to applause, that they would not be banning the Bible Man from schools, despite the complaint about his monthly meetings with county elementary children. (Huntsville Times)

Church lawyer tells judge: 'Only Scientology law applies' The Church of Scientology, defending itself against a $35,000 refund claim, told a Pinellas judge Friday that the courts cannot meddle in its religious affairs. (Tampa Bay Times)

Priest abuse lawsuit erodes religious freedom, Vermont diocese claims The prospect of paying more big damage awards to victims of long-ago priest sexual abuse will put the state’s Roman Catholic diocese out of business and violate constitutional protections regarding religious freedom, the diocese is claiming in papers on file at U.S. District Court in Burlington. (Burlington Free Press)


Police clear tents from D.C. Occupy site Dozens of U.S. Park Police officers in riot gear and on horseback converged before dawn Feb. 4 on one of the nation’s last remaining Occupy sites. Police cleared away tents they said were banned under park rules. (AP)

Occupy members ponder their next move By court order, Occupy Pittsburgh must get off BNY Mellon Green by today, but while many of the tents were removed Sunday, it was not clear whether all of the protesters would be gone. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Op-ed: Chicagoans deserves to know who paid for protesters at school hearings Still, this strikes me as one of the most cynical political ploys we’ve seen — using people’s desperation to turn a community against each other in false disagreement and telling us it’s all “for the children” when it’s really just an effort to match fire with the Chicago Teachers Union. (CST)

Court rules against abortion protester An antiabortion protester who was arrested for refusing to move to another spot on Independence Mall in 2007 can't collect damages from two park rangers who detained him, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled Thursday. (Philadelphia Daily News)

Student Freedoms


Students' text messages used in north suburban drug probe A north suburban high school is cracking down on campus drug sales by confiscating the cellphones of student suspects and using their text messages to identify others, an investigative technique that has raised questions among some legal experts and unnerved students who said they assumed texting to be private. (CT)

School Sued Over 'Boobies' Bracelet Ban The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on Monday said that it had filed a lawsuit against a rural Indiana school district that banned "I (heart) BOOBIES" bracelets.(RTV6)

BDS conference sparks free-speech debate at Penn Just one semester after registering as a student group at the University of Pennsylvania, a pro-Palestinian organization is at the center of an increasingly rancorous war of words over free speech on campus. (PI)

'Mohawks For Mom' Raises Awareness And Funds For Cancer Research After Jane Bingham's bald Barbie petition took off, her sons came up with their own hairy cancer campaign just for their mom. They styled their strands into yellow and purple mohawks. (HP)


Vermont senator proposes student free expression law Sen. Jeanette White sees the legislation as a reinforcement of the Tinker standard, which allows school censorship only to prevent a substantial disruption or an invasion of the rights of others. Subsequent cases from the U.S. Supreme Court have curtailed that standard. (SPLC)

Hundreds of Eastern Washington University newspapers go missing As many as 533 copies of The Easterner weekly newspaper were taken from stands sometime before Saturday evening. Easterner Editor-in-Chief Amy Meyer said staff members began investigating Tuesday, though Meyer noticed suspiciously few papers in one bin Saturday. (SPLC)


Senate passes bill allowing student-led prayer in schools The bill (CS/SB 98) would permit individual school boards to adopt standards for how and when students in public schools could lead public prayer at school events, even mandatory events like student assemblies. The prayer would have to be initiated and delivered by students, with no involvement by faculty or staff. (Orlando Sentinel)

Free speech rights, anti-bullying fight collide The First Amendment guarantees that public school students have the right to free speech. It also gives them the right to practice their religion. But when does a student’s right to express his personal religious beliefs go too far and cross the line into bullying? (The Tennessean)

Debate over religion in schools brings crowd to Buncombe board meeting The debate over religious materials in schools spilled into a Buncombe County Board of Education meeting Thursday night, bringing a crowd of people who wanted to weigh in on a proposed policy. (Asheville Citizen-Times)

Op-ed: A Brave Stand in Rhode Island The kindness, friendship and other values the prayer champions are universal, but a statement of religious belief has no place in a public high school auditorium. (NYT)


Punishment for student pond-diving prank prompts protest Students protested Wednesday over punishment of a student that pulled a pond-jumping prank at Texas High School, and now some say they're getting suspended as a result. (KSLA)

Privacy rights  

Student cell phones confiscated in school's probe of drug selling Stevenson High School in north suburban Lincolnshire is in the midst of a drug investigation that has relied on confiscated student cell phones to identify suspects, a school spokesman said today. (CT)

Stevenson student Curtis Hill details how he was searched in drug probe Hill, a senior, said that despite his protestations of innocence, the officials were convinced he was their man. So once they were done searching his things, he said, one of the deans picked up his password-protected cellphone and asked: "So, Curtis, are you going to tell me your pass code?" (CT)

Civil rights

Teens charged with hate crime ordered to stay away from victim If convicted, the two juveniles could face a punishment ranging from probation to a stint in juvenile detention until their 21st birthdays, the judge said. (CT)

Had to flee or 'I might be dead,' victim says of racial attack He said he and the others were talking about music before the others started using racist terms, including the N-word, against him. Then one of the teens approached from behind and slipped a rope fashioned into a noose around his neck, he said. (CT)

Student claims Harvard, Princeton discriminate against Asian-Americans The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating a complaint that Harvard and Princeton universities discriminates against Asian-Americans, according to a report filed today by veteran higher-ed reporter Daniel Golden at Bloomberg.(WP)

The Struggle Continues

Civil rights

Roommate-matching site does not violate housing laws, court A roommate-matching website that allows users to hunt for living partners based on gender and sexual orientation does not violate fair-housing laws that ban discrimination, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday. (Reuters)


Alabama immigration crackdown costs state up to $11 bln: study Alabama's crackdown on illegal immigrants, widely seen as the toughest in the United States, has cost the state's economy up to $10.8 billion, according to a new study. (Reuters)

Immigrant Worker Firings Unsettle a College Campus The renewed discussion over immigration and low-wage workers has animated class discussions, late-night dorm conversations and furious back and forth on alumni e-mail lists. Some alumni are now refusing to donate to the college, while some students are considering discouraging prospective freshmen from enrolling. (NYT)

Kansas bill seeks to pair undocumented immigrants, jobs The Kansas Business, Workers, Communities Partnership Act would create a state program that matches two groups -- local undocumented immigrants who are low-priority for deportation per federal directives, and employers who have trouble finding and keeping employees. (CNN)

Worker's rights

O'Hare bookstore firings renew living wage push for Chicago airports Union leaders said 12 employees were fired from Hudson News in the international terminal at O'Hare International Airport. They're worried many more people could be fired in coming months as the city Aviation Department approves large new concession contracts for eateries and stores at O'Hare and Midway airports. (CT)

Abortion and reproductive rights

Va. Senate poised to pass bill for pre-abortion ultrasounds The Virginia Senate, for years a firewall against efforts to restrict abortion, today is poised to pass a bill to require that pregnant women undergo an ultrasound and get a chance to see the image before having an abortion. (Virginian Pilot)

Crime and punishment

Marcus Robinson's lawyer argues statistics show blacks kept off juries in Racial Justice Act hearing Statistics show that North Carolina prosecutors illegally excluded black jurors from capital murder trials, said a defense lawyer for Marcus Reymond Robinson in the state's first Racial Justice Act evidentiary hearing. (Fayetteville Observer)

Disability rights

Court sets rule on mentally disturbed defendants Mentally disturbed criminal defendants can be required to accept a lawyer even when they're competent to stand trial and want to represent themselves, the state Supreme Court has ruled in upholding a Vallejo man's assault convictions and life sentence. (SC)

Gay rights

New Jersey gay marriage votes set for later in February New Jersey's Democrat-controlled state legislature will vote next week on bills to legalize same-sex marriage, the Democratic leadership said on Monday, adding pressure to Governor Chris Christie who opposes the measure. (Reuters)

WA House committee advances gay marriage bill A House committee on Monday approved a measure to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state, setting the stage for final passage this week.(AP)

Gun rights

Gun group appeals Illinois concealed-carry ruling A gun-rights group has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal judge in Illinois ruled against allowing people to carry firearms on the street. (CT)

Virginia lawmakers vote to lift handgun ban The Virginia Senate voted Monday to lift the state’s one-per-month limit on handgun purchases, eliminating a 19-year-old cap that critics called outdated but gun-control activists credited with tamping down weapons trafficking. (WP)

Legislature to hear gun bills Hearings are coming up in the legislature this week on three gun-related bills including one to bar holders of concealed handgun licenses from being armed on college campuses. (Albany Democrat-Herald)

Bloomberg reloads in push for gun control The two mayors, whose local teams face off in the big game, are making the pitch for Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), the organization they co-founded in 2006. Murder has been on the decline in New York and other major American cities for years, but the mayors say they still see too many dead cops and teens. (Reuters)

Privacy rights

Chicago Police Sue Sun-Times Newspaper Over Published Photos Of Police In Vanecko Lineup Five officers with the Chicago Police Department are suing the Chicago Sun-Times for publishing their names, faces and personal information in an investigative story that examined their connections to an ongoing case concerning former Mayor Richard Daley's nephew. (HP)

States rights

State Goes Its Own Way to Regulate Forest Roads The state restrictions are supposed to be at least as stiff as the national rule, and a decision on Colorado’s draft plan, now under review in Washington by the United States Forest Service, is expected within weeks. But conservationists say the plan is much less protective of forestland and creates the likelihood that a state many Americans identify with the very aeries and woods the national rule was designed to protect could become a kind of orphan. (NYT)

Justice and the Courts

Supreme Court

Health-Care Case Tests U.S. Supreme Court’s Rejection of Live Broadcasts The historic U.S. Supreme Court battle over President Barack Obama’s signature health-care legislation -- with 5 1/2 hours of arguments planned over three days on a matter that affects every American and may influence the 2012 elections -- will test the justices’ refusal to allow live broadcasts of their proceedings. (Bloomberg)

This Day in History

On February 7, 2002, President George W. Bush announces his plan to federally fund faith-based initiatives. Bush proposed that faith-based organizations should assume a greater role in providing social-service programs without breaching the separation of church and state. He suggested that government should not discriminate against faith-based programs, but it should encourage them to flourish. (

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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