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December 03, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Ken Starr v. Bong Hits 4 Jesus

hight_life, originally uploaded by Monsieur Haze.

America's favorite moral busybody has shifted his focus from cigars to spliffs. Ken Starr, the former special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton, is going to the Supreme Court to fight against a student's right to display a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" near (but not on) school property.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the civil rights suit of a teenager from Juneau, Alaska who was suspended after raising his 14-foot "Bong Hits" banner within view of school property.

Ken Starr will be arguing on behalf of the former high school principal who crossed the street, tore down the teen's banner and suspended him for 10 days.

The principal may be liable for damages because she admitted under oath that she knew she her punishment violated students' rights (as outlined in the existing case law).

Starr reportedly agreed to argue the principal's case for free.


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The first thing Starr is going to do is to teach that principal to spell 'principal.'

If Ken Starr wins the case, the First Amendment will be wrecked.

Instead of eveyone having the right to free speech, the new rule will be that a government employee (principal) can punsish people for expressing messages she doesn't like when they aren't even in school.

My "Shooting Smack for Satan" banner never got me in trouble when I was a teen. But then I did attend Lord Of The Flies High.

Hmmm... wouldn't that make it possible for say a Democratic senator to remove election signs for Republician candidates?

What is he, stoned?

Eric: That strikes me as a little alarmist. I'd prefer for the student to win this one, but it doesn't seem like it'll be an earth-shattering loss if he doesn't. Active state censorship continues to be way down on the list of threats to vital discourse.

But, more importantly, how will people know that Jesus is short on bong hits? I'm seeing Jesus this evening, and if I hadn't seen this post, I probably would've just brought my little one-hitter.

Ken Starr, Ted Olson, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Harriet Myers, Robert Bork, Jay Sekulow, Ed Meese, Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito,
Antonin Scalia, Federalist Society, ..., ..., ...

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. Shakespeare Henry VI, Part 2, act 4, sc. 2

Jesus Christ, where’s the damn roach spray?

I'm not convinced a ruling against Bong-Jesus-Boy will "ruin free speech" per se, though it could well have chilling effects.

First, it would likely only apply to minors, and we already accord them many fewer rights than we would to adults.

Second, a legal test would likely be added to stipulate that said speech had to be materially disruptive to the functioning of the school-- that is, schools would be allowed to suspend you if you did something outside school that had repercussions that seriously undermined the legitimate educational functioning of the school. This would cover, for example, making website and writing obscene, disparaging things about your teachers (which is, after a fashion, political speech), or perhaps getting into fights outside of school, but not, per se, speech as a whole. I don't think it's an entirely unreasonable position that a school's administration should have some recourse to deal with behavior that has ramifications on campus, even if the events in question take place off campus.
I don't agree with that argument, and it's just begging to be abused, but it seems a more plausible counter-position than "abolish free speech for everyone under 18, in toto."

An aside, does anyone else find it creepy that Ken Star works to undermine civil liberties on a pro bono basis?

I'm glad to see this crowd is willing to stand up for free speech, even if it is offensive to the vast majority. It's a right.

Now, how do you reconcile this with the Democrats' promotion of the "Hate Speech" bill where the government tells you things that you cannot say, because it might offend a minority?

Fred Jones -

What "Hate Speech" bill?

I went too far in writing above, "If Ken Starr wins the case, the First Amendment will be wrecked."

It depends on how narrow or broad the ruling is.

If the Court decides that it only applies to high school students participating in official school events, it will be different than if they apply it to all students or everyone.

I haven't posted much at majikthise over the past year or so because..? I'm back on this subject under my nom de blog rather than real name. I live in Alaska.

Alaska's unique marijuana status, though not part of the elements of this case, may finally get extended national attention. Most down below (the lower 48 states) are unaware of Alaska's strong right to privacy provisions in our young state constitution. For 2/3 of Alaska's history as a state, case law on marijuana possession in the home for personal use has consistently deferred to a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision:

"With the 1975 Ravin v. State decision, the Alaska Supreme Court declared the state's anti-drug law unconstitutional with respect to simple possession of cannabis, holding that the right to privacy guaranteed by the Alaska state constitution outweighed the state's public health interest in banning the drug. A new law attempting to reinstate state penalties in connection with cannabis was signed into law June 2, 2006; possession of up to four ounces was to be punishable as a misdemeanor. The legislative effort faces a judicial challenge, however."

Bong Hits 4 Jesus publicity might center on the kid who made the poster - he's out of state in college now; Alaskan attitudes toward cannabis... But the stories won't get much beyond the mythical Alaska which doesn't exist. Hopefully, the blogs will.

The appeals panel said she could be held liable because she admitted to being aware of the pertinent case law regarding student rights. The court said the law was clear and Morse was aware of it when she punished Frederick.

People are strange creatures. Nothing enrages us more than the thought that someone is laughing at us or our most cherished ideas. The instant she saw a joke she knew any atheist pothead would think was hysterical, the principal shed her professional better judgment as easily and as naturally as a snake sheds its skin.

"If the Court decides that it only applies to high school students participating in official school events, it will be different than if they apply it to all students or everyone."

They can already do this to students participating in official school events. You can definitely get detention for insulting your teacher in the middle of the class (or, as in this case, unfurl a Bong Hits 4 Jesus banner), regardless of your free speech right to do so. The issue here is speech by students NOT participating in official school functions that might have disruptive effects on those actually participating in the same-- that is, does it matter that he was standing across the street when he put up the banner.

That is: if you get out of school and run across the street and only then hurl insults at your math teacher (while she's in the middle of a class) can the school punish you?

"Now, how do you reconcile this with the Democrats' promotion of the "Hate Speech" bill where the government tells you things that you cannot say, because it might offend a minority?"

Easy: I never heard of any such 'Hate Speech' bill, and am also not responsible for every position taken by every member of the Democratic party. They may not be as institutionally corrupt as the Republicans, but they surely have their fair share of loons. I would oppose such a bill because it is not rights-maximizing-- though it thinks it is. A supporter would refer to a contrast between liberal thought (the government must intervene to protect citizens from private parties that violate their rights) and libertarian though (the government intervene as little as possible). It's simply that the right violated would be greater than the rights gained, rendering this position illiberal

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