Thursday, April 20, 2006

First Amendment Alert

There was what seems to be an awful decision today by a divided panel (2 of the 3 judges who heard the case) of the 9th Circuit in Harper v. Poway Unified School District. The case involved a high school student who decided to wear a t-shirt expressing his view that homosexuality is a sin in conjunction with a school-supported, if not sponsored, "Day of Silence" designed to promote the opposing view. On the front, the T-shirt said, "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned," and on the back, it said "Homosexuality is Shameful." The kid was told he had to take the shirt off and was told to "keep his religion in his car."

The opinion upholding the school's censorship of his speech was written by Stephen Reinhardt, hands down the worst judge in America. He says that "derogatory and injurious remarks directed at students' minority status such as race, religion, and sexual orientation" are unprotected in schools because they "may destroy the self-esteem of our most vulnerable teenagers and interfere with their educational development."

But of course what he means is speech that is objectionable to the minorities that he approves of. That Chase Harper found the speech promoted by the Day of Silence to be injurious to and derogatory of his evangelical faith doesn't count. That a school, having permitted students to speak, would permit them to speak on only one side of a controversial issue is apparently fine in Reinhardt's Brave New World. I want to read the case and will blog more, but this strikes me as an extraordinarily authoritarian and wrongheaded decision. I doubt it will survive further scrutiny, either from the en banc 9th Circuit (all the judges in that circuit) or the Supreme Court.


Billiam said...

As I've stated in the past, Fanatics only believe on free speech if it's speech they agree with.

Dad29 said...

...the well-earned soubriquet "Ninth Circus" continues to prove itself accurate.

That's why Sensenbrenner has decided to create ANOTHER appellate circuit Out West.

Leave the Californians under the 9th; they deserve each other.

Jay Bullock said...

The principal seemed, based on the history of the school, to believe that the shirt was designed to incite violence. See here for more.

Rick Esenberg said...

The "history" in question was that the "Day of Silence" had caused some altercations. So why not ban the "Day of Silence"? What the school did was choose to let students speak and then shut up one side of the debate. That is unconstitutional.