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

April 3, 2012

Five Freedoms


Examining Fans’ Rights to Jeer at Games Is a fan’s protest — known in some sports law circles as fan speech or cheering speech — a form of expression protected by the First Amendment? In other words, do fans have the right to bellow at referees all game long, as long as they do not run on the court or menace the officials? (NYT)

Boston settled police videotaping lawsuit The city of Boston has paid $170,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a man who said his civil rights were violated when he was arrested for recording police with his cellphone.(AP)

6th Circuit rejects ‘Joe the Plumber’ lawsuit A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit by “Joe the Plumber” that claimed his rights were violated by a state records search after he voiced public concern over taxes to then-candidate Barack Obama.(AP)

Supreme Court upholds limits on religious messages The U.S. Supreme Court left intact Monday two rulings by the federal appeals court in San Francisco that limit the ability of teachers and charter schools to spread religious messages in the classroom. (SC)

City Revokes Testing Word Ban New York City Department of Education officials said late Monday that they were pulling back on a clause in contracts for testing companies that list 50 words and topics that they should avoid in creating new tests.(NYT)

Federal judge refuses to toss lawsuit by WikiLeaks ally A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an outspoken advocate for an Army private accused of funneling classified documents to WikiLeaks.(AP)

Va. city defends limits on Confederate flags The city of Lexington is defending its decision to keep the Confederate battle flag off of municipal light poles, arguing that allowing that banner to fly on city-owned property could open the door to all sorts of offensive messages.(AP)

Putting In Their 2 Cents The event in Brooklyn was part of something called participatory budgeting, in which constituents in four City Council districts were given control over a small slice of their council members’ discretionary budgets — $1 million in each district. In a process that began in October, they proposed projects, researched their viability and ran them by city agencies.(NYT)

Supporters of George Zimmerman fearful of speaking out Trayvon Martin’s supporters pack churches, swarm rallies and wear hooded sweat shirts in solidarity while friends and family of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the unarmed teen to death, remain largely out of sight. The few who have defended Zimmerman have done so reluctantly, most fearing public backlash. (AP)

Congressman wears hoodie on House floor to honor Trayvon Martin As concerns over the Trayvon Martin case mount, a congressman donned a gray hoodie Wednesday morning to deliver a speech on the House floor pressing for justice for the slain Florida teen and his family. (CT)

Fox’s Geraldo Rivera apologizes for comments about hoodie in Trayvon Martin shooting case Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera said Tuesday that he’s sorry for suggesting that a hoodie worn by unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was as much responsible for his death as the neighborhood watch captain who shot him. (AP)

Op-ed: In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, the hoodie takes on a greater meaning I don’t consider getting shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer an everyday possibility, but the air of suspicion is. I am a gangly black man who sings and smiles while walking down the street. I typically intimidate no one. In a hoodie, I am mistaken for a thug.(WP)

Elderly couple abandons their home after address is posted on Twitter as that of George Zimmerman A school-cafeteria lunch lady and her husband have received hate mail, unwanted visits from reporters and fearful inquiries from neighbors — all because their Sanford-area address is being disseminated on Twitter as belonging to Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman, her son said late Tuesday. (Orlando Sentinel)

Professor at Florida's FAMU suspended over hazing A music professor at Florida A&M University, the school rocked by the hazing death of a marching band member last fall, has been suspended over allegations he joined in the ritualistic beating of fraternity pledges at his home, authorities said on Thursday.(Reuters)

911 caller arrested in deadly police shooting As the nation focuses on the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman, the police shooting in Pasadena raises more questions about the role and responsibility of those who report or witness crimes.(AP)

Jeremy Lin lunches with ex-ESPN headline writer Knicks star Jeremy Lin had lunch with the former ESPN employee who was fired last month for writing a headline about Lin that included a racially insensitive word.(Newsday)

'Bully' will run in Regal, Carmike Cinemas with restrictions The MPAA gave "Bully" an R rating due to language, refusing to budge despite heavy lobbying by Weinstein co-chair Harvey Weinstein that it be lowered to PG-13 on grounds that the lower rating would enable more teens to see the movie. An online petition to get the rating lowered also drew nearly half a million signatures. (Reuters)

Judge in NY tells hearing on lawsuit that 1st Amendment is not at heart of anti-terror law A federal judge said Thursday that she’s “extremely skeptical” a lawsuit can succeed in striking down a law giving the government wide powers to regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.(AP)

ACLU to Va State Police: Halt social media reviews The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday urged the Virginia State Police to stop demanding a look at job applicants' Facebook and Twitter accounts, calling the practice an invasion of privacy akin to eavesdropping on a phone call or opening someone's mail.(AP)

Mich. militia members cleared of charges that accused them of plotting war against government A federal judge on Tuesday gutted the government’s case against seven members of a Michigan militia, dismissing the most serious charges in an extraordinary defeat for federal authorities who insisted they had captured homegrown rural extremists poised for war. (AP)

Pinterest Bans Pro-Anorexia Content to Little Effect Just one month after Tumblr banned content that “actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm,” Pinterest has updated its terms of service to prevent users from pinning content of a similar nature. This is the second update Pinterest has made to its terms of service in the past week. (Mashable)

Fabrice Muamba: Racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days A student who admitted posting racially offensive comments on Twitter about footballer Fabrice Muamba has been jailed for 56 days. (BBC)

Feminist writer Naomi Wolf calls for boycott of Katy Perry video because it's 'propaganda for the Marines' Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, says the images of the singer dressed as a soldier 'glorify violence' and has called for a boycott of her music. (Daily Mail)

Ore. officials fight to charge groups for records Officials at the port in Coos Bay say they will go to court to overturn the district attorney’s decision that environmental groups cannot be charged thousands of dollars to fulfill public-records requests.(AP)

Juror dismissed from Carrier trial for Facebook misstep A judge on Wednesday dismissed a juror who reportedly complained on Facebook about the “boring” pace in the case against former Colorado Springs police Officer Joshua Carrier, violating court rules against discussing the trial. (Colorado Springs Gazette)

Guilty after proven innocent? Georgia pols fight law opening criminal records even without crime GJP Executive Director Doug Ammar said many others still face this problem, because Georgia gives district attorneys discretion over whether to allow the restriction of arrest records, even if there's no conviction. (Fox News)

Op-ed: The Right to Sell Kids Junk It’s easy to get lost in the Constitution and forget that we’re talking about children being bombarded by propaganda so clever and sophisticated that it amounts to brainwashing, for products that can and do make them sick.(NYT)


Sanford retracts threat to arrest reporters for contacting workers The threat came in a press release a public relations firm hired by the city sent Wednesday, stating workers had been followed and approached at their homes by reporters working on the Martin story. The press release said police won't hesitate to arrest members of the news media. (WKMG)

Iran suspends accreditation for Reuters in Tehran The Iranian government has suspended the press accreditation for Reuters staff in Tehran after the publication of a video story on women's martial arts training which contained an error.(Reuters)

You Be The Judge: Are Bloggers Journalists? In case involving self-described ‘investigative blogger’ Crystal Cox, Judge Hernandez ruled that in order to qualify for basic First Amendment protections like state shield laws, freelance journalists have to meet a rather stiff set of criteria.(Forbes)


Mother faces contempt of court, maybe jail for baptizing children Last week the Tennessee Court of Appeals said Lauren Jarrell must face a criminal-contempt hearing for violating a court order that said major decisions regarding the religious upbringing of her two children should be made jointly with the children’s father.(AP)

Concert at Army post in N.C. geared toward atheists The Rock Beyond Belief event at Fort Bragg, organized by soldiers here two years after an evangelical Christian event at the eastern North Carolina post, is the most visible sign so far of a growing desire by military personnel with atheist or other secular beliefs to get the same recognition as their religious counterparts.(AP)

Attorney: Churches can't hide behind First Amendment in assault cases Religious organizations cannot use their policies or cite the First Amendment to defend themselves from accusations of assault and inappropriate sexual relationships, an attorney for a Colorado woman wrote in federal court documents this week. (Casper Star-Tribune)


NATO protest interest hasn't waned, police say The removal of the G-8 summit from Chicago has done nothing to curb interest from protesters intending to demonstrate during the summit weekend in May that now includes only NATO meetings, a top Chicago Police Department official said Tuesday. (CT)

Idaho Senate approves bill to close ‘Occupy’ loophole Senate Republicans agreed they should close the loophole that allowed Occupy Boise protesters to establish a camp on state property last November, even though a federal judge has forbidden the Legislature from ousting the protesters’ tents across from the Capitol.(AP)

Judge asked to bar free speech defense in Occupy trial Polk County prosecutors are trying stronger tactics in an Occupy Des Moines trespassing trial scheduled to begin Monday, arguing that jurors should be barred from considering “free speech rights.”(Des Moines Register)

Student Freedoms


Some CPS students want a voice in grading their teachers A group of Chicago Public School students Tuesday demanded that student opinions about the effectiveness of their teachers be slowly folded into a new teacher evaluation process due to start this fall. (CST)

Brooklyn High School Fines Students $100 For Using Facebook, Threatens Expulsion If They Don't Stop Controversy ensued after the Beis Rivkah all-girl high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., pulled from class every 11th grade student who used Facebook and handed them a written ultimatum: delete their accounts from the social networking site and pay $100 to the school, or be expelled, community website reports. (HP)

Indiana teenager expelled over profane Twitter post A northern Indiana high school senior has been expelled for allegedly tweeting an expletive on a school computer.(AP)

Alpharetta student loses court bid over prom dispute A federal judge Friday ruled against an Alpharetta High School senior who claims he was ousted as student body president for pushing to make the school’s prom king and queen selection more inclusive to gay and lesbian students.(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Report on campus pepper-spray incident can be released The University of California can release a report on the pepper-spraying of student demonstrators by UC-Davis police but must first remove the names of most officers, a judge ruled yesterday.(AP)


TV reporter’s worries leads to Bethesda school pulling student newspaper TV reporter Andrea McCarren triggers temporary censorship of school newspaper.(WP)

Group says First Amendment rights violated after photojournalism student charged after taking traffic stop pics Philadelphia police violated a college student's First Amendment rights by arresting him as he took photos of a traffic stop outside his house, a journalism advocacy group said Monday. (Fox News)


ACLU puts schools on notice over ‘inspirational message’ law The American Civil Liberties Union has officially put central Florida schools on notice. Union leader say if schools go ahead with a controversial school prayer law there will be lawsuits. (WOFL)

The Struggle Continues

Civil rights

Race, Tragedy and Outrage Collide After a Shot in Florida With five weeks’ passage, the fateful encounter between a black youth who wanted to go to college and a Hispanic man who wanted to be a judge has polarized the nation. And, now this modest central Florida community finds its name being mentioned with Selma and Birmingham on a civil rights list held sacred in black American culture, while across the country, the parsing of the case has become cacophonic and political, punctuated by pleas for tolerance, words of hatred, and spins from the left and right. (NYT)

Victim of anti-gay assault speaks out The victim whose jaw was broken in a March 12 attack in the District that is being investigated as a possible hate crime has returned home and is in the final stages of recovery.(WP)

Kansas House tentatively limits anti-discrimination ordinances The Kansas House of Representatives on Wednesday gave tentative approval to a bill that could prohibit the city of Salina from adding sexual orientation and gender identity protections to its anti-discrimination ordinance. (Salina Journal)

NYC Renters Fight Police Sweeps New York City's Operation Clean Halls, which lets landlords put city police patrols in privately owned buildings, puts hundreds of thousands of mostly minority New Yorkers "under siege" in their own homes, residents say in a federal class action. (Courthouse News)

To Enroll More Minority Students, Colleges Work Around the Courts The aggressiveness of those efforts, and the results, vary widely by state, but generally they increase minority enrollment — though not as much as overt affirmative action once did. And they have tended to help Hispanic applicants far more than blacks, at least partly because of the demographics of the states where they have been tried.(NYT)

Gender equity

Op-ed: The Reign of the Doltish Dad Men in commercials can’t do anything right. Will that ever change? (Slate)


Obama administration proposes changes to legal status applications ­The Obama administration is proposing to make it easier for illegal immigrants who are family members of American citizens to apply for legal permanent residency. (CT)

Agents arrest more than 3,000 criminal immigrants in sweep The arrests are part of a U.S. focus on deporting criminals or repeat immigration offenders rather than low-priority illegal immigrants. The totals from last week's sweep came as President Barack Obama met Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House. (Reuters)

Worker's rights

Albuquerque Police Union to End Officer Payments Under pressure over its policy of paying officers involved in shootings, the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association said Thursday that it was ending the practice.(NYT)

5-foot-4 activist stood tall on labor, civil and women's rights What made Wyatt a giant is that she was one of the few people who had a tremendous influence on three of the most important movements of the 20th century — the struggles for labor, civil and women's rights. She was a fervent believer that the three were interconnected and that everyone's fate rose and fell on the same tide.(CT)

Abortion and reproductive rights

Oklahoma court strikes down ultrasound abortion law An Oklahoma judge on Wednesday struck down a state law requiring women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound image placed in front of them and to listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure. (AP)

Small device detonates outside Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinic A small explosive device detonated outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in a small town about 100 miles north of Milwaukee on Sunday night, causing minimal damage from a small fire, but no injuries, local authorities said on Monday.(Reuters)

Crime and punishment

Arkansas board eyes Internet ban for sex offenders Some freed sex offenders will be able to send e-mails and browse the Web for a while longer while the state Board of Parole researches whether it can adopt a policy that bars convicted sex offenders from using the Internet without infringing on their First Amendment rights.(AP)

Native American inmates challenging tobacco ban A Lakota traditional healer said this week that tobacco is an integral part of Native American religious ceremonies and denying its use is akin to taking away the Bible from a Christian.(AP)

Disability rights

Judge: CNN Must Face Lawsuit From Deaf Group CNN argued that the First Amendment gave it a pass from having to contend with a lawsuit over its decision not to caption its online videos.(Hollywood Reporter)

Elections and voting

Recall Election for Wisconsin Governor Who Battled Unions Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who has battled public employee unions since taking office last year, will become the first governor in the state’s history to face a recall election, a state board ruled on Friday after finding that critics had collected more than enough signatures to force a vote. (NYT)

Federal judge says groups can’t shield campaign-ad backers The Federal Election Commission overstepped its bounds in allowing groups that fund certain election ads to keep their financiers anonymous, a federal judge has ruled.(AP)

Gun rights

Federal judge says N.C. can't ban all citizens' guns during emergencies The order, issued Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, stopped short of finding the state's emergency gun-ban law unconstitutional on its very face, finding that the plaintiffs were "unable to demonstrate that there are no set of circumstances under which the emergency declaration statutes would be valid."(Winston Salem-Journal)

State lawmaker pulls plug on campus gun bill Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said Tuesday he has pulled the plug on efforts to allow those with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon to also bring them into classrooms. Gould said he could not round up the necessary votes. (Arizona Daily Sun)

Charges dropped against 80-year-old who shot burglar: 'I feel great' Homer "Tank" Wright was charged with unlawful use of a weapon because he had been convicted in the past of weapons charges and was not allowed to own a gun. Prosecutors defended the charge at the time, but announced in court early this morning that they were dismissing it.(CT)

Homeland Security

U.S. Outgunned in Hacker War Shawn Henry, who is preparing to leave the FBI after more than two decades with the bureau, said in an interview that the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is "unsustainable.'' Computer criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them, he said. (WSJ)

Privacy rights

Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool Many departments try to keep cell tracking secret, the documents show, because of possible backlash from the public and legal problems. Although there is no evidence that the police have listened to phone calls without warrants, some defense lawyers have challenged other kinds of evidence gained through warrantless cell tracking.(NYT)

Tracking Athletes Online as Legal Red Flags Flutter University administrators face a tricky situation when it comes to players on social media, balancing issues of privacy while trying to guard against the possibility that an errant tweet or Facebook posting could result in trouble for an athlete or the athletic department.(NYT)

Supreme Court restricts privacy law in pilot's case In a 5-3 decision, the court said Stan Cooper could not seek damages against the agencies that shared his medical files during a fraud investigation because the federal Privacy Act authorizes damages only for monetary losses and not for humiliation or emotional distress. Cooper did not claim financial losses in his suit. (SC)

Justice and the Courts

Supreme Court

Supreme Court upholds jail strip searches — even for minor offenses The Supreme Court ruled Monday that those arrested for even minor violations may be strip-searched before being admitted to jail, saying safety concerns outweigh personal privacy rights. The court’s conservatives ruled against a New Jersey man who was strip-searched after being mistakenly arrested on an outstanding warrant. (WP)

Supreme court: immunity for witness grand jury testimony The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a government investigator who initiates a criminal case against a private individual and later lies to a grand jury still has immunity from a civil lawsuit over his testimony.(Reuters)

Op-ed: In Health Case, Appeals to a Justice’s Idea of Liberty The way to frame a Supreme Court argument meant to persuade Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is to talk about liberty. It is his touchstone and guiding principle, and his conception of liberty is likely to determine the future of President Obama’s health care law.(NYT)

Would overturning health-care reform be 'judicial activism'? For the Supreme Court to strike down health-care law, including its key individual mandate, smacks of the judicial activism typically denounced by conservatives, President Obama says.(CSM)

Ruling may spur foes to challenge Mass. health law A Supreme Court ruling against President Obama’s landmark health care law could prompt challenges to the Massachusetts law that inspired it, according to legal specialists and activists following the case.(BG)

Obamacare ruling won’t affect Romneycare The question in front of the Supreme Court is whether the federal government can require most citizens to carry health insurance. Even if the justices decide the federal government cannot do that, Massachusetts will still have a law on its books requiring all Bay State residents to buy coverage.(WP)

Op-ed: High court misses chance to clarify contours of teacher speech Johnson’s attorneys also noted that the lower courts are not consistent in how they evaluate public school teacher-speech cases. Whether or not we agree with a teacher’s hanging religious messages in his classroom, his attorneys have a valid point about the uncertainty of teacher speech.(FAC)

U.S. Supreme Court vacates Oklahoma woman's life sentence for shoplifting The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the case of Cecilia Cathleen Rodriguez to be returned to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for further consideration in light of a recent ruling by justices who vacated a Missouri man's sentence because he did not receive adequate representation during the plea-bargain process. (The Oklahoman)

This Day in History

On April 3, 1955 the American Civil Liberties Union announces it will defend Allen Ginsberg's book "Howl" against obscenity charges. The U.S. Customs Department had seized some 520 copies of the book several weeks earlier as the book entered the U.S. from England, where it had been printed. (

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.