Briefs argue for Supreme Court to cut down ‘heckler’s veto’
Legal teams and experts across the nation are arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that the justices must step into a California school case and overrule a “heckler’s veto” established by a lower court to prevent phrases such as “Hope,” “Stand with Rand,” “Christ is risen!” and the Muslim shahada from being banned.
It was a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a dispute over American flag T-shirts and the Mexican Cinco de Mayo holiday that affirmed school officials can censor the passive speech of students – such as a message on a T-shirt – if someone else threatens violence because of it.
“American students shouldn’t be censored just because government officials think someone might be offended,” said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco of the Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the legal teams filing friend-of-the-court briefs in support of overturning the ruling.
“The Supreme Court has made clear repeatedly that the government cannot stifle speech on the basis that someone might consider it controversial,” he said. “To engage in that kind of censorship is a gross violation of the First Amendment and the civic virtue of robust debate that public schools should embrace and encourage among students.”
The case arose in 2010 when school officials at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California, south of the Bay Area, barred students from wearing shirts bearing the U.S. flag on the Cinco De Mayo holiday, “because other students might have reacted violently.”
Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain warned in his dissent from the 9th Circuit the ruling would result in “mob rule.”
He said: “The next case might be a student wearing a shirt bearing the image of Che Guevara, or Martin Luther King Jr. or Pope Francis. It might be a student wearing a President Obama ‘Hope’ shirt, or a shirt exclaiming ‘Stand with Rand!’ It might be a shirt proclaiming the shahada, or a shirt accounting “Christ is risen!’ It might be any viewpoint imaginable, but whatever it is, it will be vulnerable to the rule of the mob.
“The demands of bullies will become school policy,” he said.
The suit was brought on behalf of students who were told by school officials, Principal Nick Boden and Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez, to turn their flag-themed shirts inside out or remove them.
The parents of the students named in the case are John and Dianna Dariano, Kurt and Julie Ann Fagerstrom, and Kendall and Joy Jones.
Freedom X said the students sued the district “after their Mexican-American principal, claiming to be acting out of concern that Mexican students might retaliate with violence, ordered them to remove their American flag T-shirts or turn them inside out.”
Written by BOB UNRUH
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