Pubdate: Sun, 1 Jul 2007
Source: Valdosta Daily Times (GA)
Copyright: 2007 Valdosta Daily Times
Bookmark: (Bong Hits 4 Jesus)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


This week saw two very different First Amendment cases, one which
received national coverage and the other with a tremendous regional

The first case in the national news this week concerned a high school
student in Alaska who held up a sign at a televised school event
saying, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." The school deemed it as promoting drug
use and suspended him, with his case making it all the way to the
Supreme Court before a judge finally ruled that, yes, schools have the
right to uphold disciplinary rules regarding limits on free speech.
Had the court ruled otherwise, any drug-related or offensive or
obscene material on T-shirts, posters, etc., would have been fair game
for students.

Just as our society accepts limitations on free speech for reasons of
public safety, such as limitations on yelling "fire" in a movie
theatre or making a bomb joke at an airport, we should also accept the
rights of educational institutions to maintain discipline on school

However, when the First Amendment is discarded due to a personal bias,
that's when we as a society should step up and draw the line.

A case has been brought in Tifton as a combined effort of The Tifton
Gazette, The Moultrie Observer and the Associated Press against a
ruling by Chief Tifton Judicial Circuit Judge Gary McCorvey to prevent
any media from covering the trial of one of four men accused of
murdering six Mexican immigrants last year in a trailer park outside

The judge has suggested "the First Amendment right to free expression
seems to no longer apply in this age of 'the infotainment industry,'"
according to The Tifton Gazette. "The framers of the Constitution
'never contemplated, of course, having to deal with the media as they
exist today,' McCorvey said. 'Those gentlemen couldn't anticipate YouTube.'"

McCorvey has issued blanket gag orders that extend to anyone,
including family, who might be called as a potential witness.

If the judge is so concerned with local bias, he could have had the
trial moved to another venue and has other remedies at his disposal,
but eliminating First Amendment rights based on his own personal bias
is unconstitutional. Last week, Judge McCorvey ruled that the media
could attend the pre-trial motions, with limitations such as not
reporting on the process until a jury is seated, but he had yet to
rule on reporters having access to the trial itself or camera access
to the courtroom.

Two First Amendment tests, two very different issues, two very
different outcomes.

A judge riding roughshod over reporters because he doesn't respect the
law which protects the freedom of the press or the rights of the
citizens to be informed is vastly different from a child who cries
foul because he's suspended from school after displaying drug humor.

As a society, we should work to better understand and respect the
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake