Tag Archives: First Amendment

‘Genuine Menace’: Trump Calls in Lawyers to Block Publication of Embarrassing Book

The forthcoming exposé, which features interviews with West Wing insiders, raises questions about the president’s fitness for office and could be useful to the Russia investigation

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-4-2018

President Donald Trump is attempting to block a publisher from releasing a new “bombshell” book about his presidency. (Photo: Notions Capital/Flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump is attempting to block the release of a highly-anticipated “bombshell” book featuring interviews with members of his inner circle—including those who reportedly called him a “fucking idiot” and said “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid“—by submitting a cease-and-desist letter to the book’s publisher.

In the letter to Henry Holt and Co., Trump attorney Charles J. Harder demands the publisher “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release, or dissemination of the book,” including excerpts and summaries. Continue reading


Criminalizing Dissent: Trump Inauguration Protest Trial Enters Fourth Week

Published 12-9-2017 by Unicorn Riot

Scene from J20 protest. Photo: It’s Going Down


Washington, DC – Several weeks into the first trial of the individuals who were mass arrested during President Trump’s inauguration in DC on January 20 (J20), the prosecution is almost ready to rest its case. The arrests occurred at 12th & L streets when police chased, trapped, and surrounded the ‘anti-capitalist and anti-fascist’ protest march.

The first trial group comprises those who insisted on their right to a speedy trial. Jury selection began on November 15, and the trial itself started with opening arguments on November 20. The next group of defendants exercising their right to speedy trial is set for trial later this month but may be delayed to January; many other trials for the remaining defendants are scattered throughout 2018. Continue reading


How the tax package could blur the separation of church and politics

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If a House provision gets enacted, churches will be able to endorse – not just pray for – political candidates. Andrew Cline/Shutterstock.com

Susan Anderson, Elon University

The tax package pending in Congress includes a provision that would leave churches and other nonprofits, which by law must be nonpartisan, suddenly free to engage in political speech.

This measure, currently only in the House version of the bill, could potentially change charitable life as we know it.

As an accounting professor who teaches nonprofit taxation, I believe that this significant change deserves vigorous public debate and is too big to bury in tax legislation. Continue reading


Citing Dictatorial Tendencies, Critics Slam Trump for ‘Madcap Threat’ Aimed at NBC

While the president can’t take away the network’s ability to operate, former FCC commissioner calls ongoing attempts to intimidate journalists “chilling”

Written by Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-11-2017.

After an Oval Office meeting with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, President Trump attacked NBC for its reporting on his comments about increasing the nation’s nuclear arsenal. (Photo: @RT_America/Twitter)

Free speech advocates and journalists spoke out against President Donald Trump’s latest attack on the news media on Wednesday after he suggested a “challenge” of NBC’s license.

Michael Copps, the former FCC commissioner who now serves as special advisor to the grassroots organization Common Cause, noted that while Trump isn’t legally able to carry out his threats, his attempts to intimidate the press are deeply disconcerting: Continue reading


Your Guide to Avoiding Internet Censorship of Independent News Journalism

There are lots of good strategies for beating both corporate and government Internet censors and snoops. These range from alternatives to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter — to direct subscriptions to authors and pubs — to setting up your own VPN. All are worth the effort.

By Whitney Webb. Published 8-24-2017 by MintPress News

Image: Pinterest


While Google’s Information Age dominance has long been recognized to have some unsavory consequences, the massive technology corporation has, in recent months, taken to directly censoring content and traffic to a variety of independent media outlets across the political spectrum — essentially muting the voices of any site or author who does not toe the establishment line.

This new offensive has coincided with Google efforts to clamp down on “fake news” and “extremist” content, which – on its subsidiary, YouTube – led to the categorical blocking of videos portraying war crimes and other disturbing events of the Syrian conflict and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Other independent media figures, such as Luke Rudowski and Carey Wedler, on the popular video streaming service, saw many of their videos demonetized. Continue reading


ACLU Shifts Position on Defending Armed Demonstrations After Charlottesville

In wake of violence at white supremacist rally in Virginia, legal group revises policy for demonstrators who insist on carrying weapons

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-18-2017

Photo: Inverse

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will no longer defend groups that insist on marching with firearms, following violent gatherings of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief, and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s long-serving executive director, told the Wall Street Journal Thursday evening. Continue reading


As White House Ramps Up Attacks on Free Press, NRA Issues Warning to New York Times

Conservative commentator tells newspaper, “We’re coming for you”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-6-2017

The NRA’s attack on the New York Times in a video that’s gone viral is the latest conservative threat to the press. (Photo: Twitter/screenshot)

The National Rifle Association (NRA) drew attention this weekend after its newest ad went viral.

The New York Times was the focus of the video, which was released weeks after an ad that showed images of protesters and left-leaning cities including New York and Chicago, as the narrator warned viewers against liberal indoctrination by public school system, the news media, and other institutions.

Both videos have featured conservative talk radio hots Dana Loesch. In the most recent video, Loesch wages an attack on the Times, implying that the paper’s reporting does not reflect the views of most Americans. Continue reading


Poll: ‘Scary’ Number of Republicans Support Court-Ordered Press Censorship

45 percent of Republicans favor giving courts the power to shutter “biased” media outlets—a number commentators argued should be “scary for anyone concerned about the future of American democracy.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-1-2017

“This poll seems to show one way how Donald Trump’s norm breaking is trickling down and shaping the opinions of rank-and-file Republicans,” said Will Jordan of the Global Strategy Group. (Photo: Majunznk/Flickr/cc)

As the Trump administration continues to make headlines for its attacks on the press and its attempts to prevent journalists from adequately covering White House press briefings, a recent YouGov/Economist poll (pdf) found that 45 percent of Republicans support giving courts the power to shut down “biased” media outlets—a result commentators argued should be “scary for anyone concerned about the future of American democracy.”

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly pilloried specific journalists and the news media more broadly; at one point he suggested that the First Amendment gives the press “too much freedom.” He has also continued to label the press “the enemy of the American people.” Continue reading


The Supreme Court, religion and the future of school choice

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The Supreme Court’s decision in the Trinity Lutheran case is blurring the lines between church and state. aradaphotography/Shutterstock.com

John E. Taylor, West Virginia University

The Supreme Court recently decided that Trinity Lutheran Church should be eligible for a Missouri state grant covering the cost of recycled playground surfaces. Though the state originally rejected the church’s application on grounds of separation of church and state, the Supreme Court ruled that this rejection was, in fact, religious discrimination.

The case’s impact will probably reach well beyond playgrounds.

As a scholar of education law, I’ve been following the Trinity Lutheran case and what it could mean for the hottest issue in education: school choice. Where in the past states have decided for themselves whether religious schools are eligible for school vouchers and scholarship tax credits, the Trinity Lutheran decision likely signals that the Supreme Court will soon require states to include religious private schools in their programs. Continue reading


Neil Gorsuch and the First Amendment: Questions the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask

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Gorsuch meets with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Clay Calvert, University of Florida

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for United States Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch are underway. The Conversation

It’s time to consider some key questions about First Amendment speech rights the senators should ask during the constitutionally mandated advice-and-consent process.

These hearings often are contentious. That was the case for Justice Clarence Thomas in the early 1990s. And they surely won’t be a cake walk this time, given Democratic anger over Republican inaction on Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

The First Amendment questions I’d pose to Gorsuch are critical because the man who nominated him, President Donald J. Trump, bashes the press as “the enemy of the people” yet proclaims no one loves the First Amendment more than he.

An obvious question for Judge Gorsuch is his view of the court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. That five-to-four decision divided sharply along perceived partisan lines. It affected the speech rights of corporations and unions in funding political ads shortly before elections. Committee Democrats no doubt will grill Gorsuch about Citizens United.

As the director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida, I would like to suggest at least three other timely and vital questions he should be asked about speech rights – but that I doubt he will face.

Capturing cops on camera in public

The first question I’d pose to Gorsuch involves an issue the Supreme Court has never tackled – does the First Amendment protect a person’s right to record police officers doing their jobs in public places?

It’s a vital question in light of incidents such as the April 2015 shooting in the back of unarmed African-American Walter Scott by white police officer Michael Slager in South Carolina. A video of it was captured on a smartphone by barber Feidin Santana while walking to work. It was key evidence in Slager’s murder trial – which ended with a hung jury.

Without guidance from the Supreme Court about recording cops in public venues, lower courts have had to sort it out for themselves.

Just last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit concluded in Turner v. Driver that “First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrate that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.” That’s a positive step in terms of creating a constitutional right to record cops within the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. But just what constitutes a “reasonable” restriction is extremely vague and problematic, especially because judges usually defer to officers’ judgments.

Worse still, some courts haven’t even recognized any First Amendment right to record police.

In the case of Fields v. City of Philadelphia, now under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, a federal judge ruled there is no First Amendment right to film police in public spaces unless the person recording does so with the intent of challenging or criticizing police actions. In brief, there is no First Amendment right to neutrally record police as a bystander or journalist in Philadelphia.

Gorsuch thus should be asked: “Do citizens have a First Amendment right to record police doing their jobs in public places and, if there is such a right, what – if any – are the specific limits on that right?”

The right to protest in public places

Trump’s presidency ushers in a new era of confrontational political activism. Protests against Trump and rallies for him are common, with some ending in arrests. Berkeley, California – home of the 1960s free speech movement – saw 10 arrests this month when pro- and anti-Trump individuals clashed.

Gorsuch should be questioned about the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and the limits on that right affecting political demonstrations on public streets, sidewalks and parks. The Supreme Court privileges such “quintessential public forums” for picketing and protests, and it carefully reviews any restrictions imposed there on speech and assembly. Would Gorsuch follow that tradition of protection?

Disturbingly, The New York Times reported earlier this month that lawmakers in more than 15 states are considering bills that would curb, to varying degrees, the right to protest. Some measures, such as Florida Senate Bill 1096, do so by requiring a special event permit be obtained before any protest on a street, thus stifling spontaneous demonstrations that might occur after a controversial executive order or a startling jury verdict.

Requiring the government to grant a permit before one can protest constitutes a prior restraint on speech. Prior restraints, the Supreme Court has repeatedly found, are presumptively unconstitutional.

Gorsuch thus should be asked: “What, if any, limits are there on the First Amendment right to engage in political speech in public spaces, including streets, sidewalks and parks?”

The right to offend

Finally, I’d ask Gorsuch for his views about the First Amendment right to offend. It’s an important topic today for three reasons.

First, protesters may use offensive language to capture attention and show the passion behind their views. The Supreme Court traditionally protects offensive political speech, as it famously did in 1971 in Cohen v. California. There it ruled in favor of Paul Robert Cohen’s First Amendment right to wear a jacket with the words “F— the Draft” in a Los Angeles courthouse hallway.

Second, some believe there’s a pall of political correctness in society, particularly in higher education. Some students may be deterred from using certain language or expressing particular viewpoints for fear they will offend others and thus be punished.

Third, the Supreme Court is set to rule in the coming months in a case called Lee v. Tam. It centers on the power of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to deny an Asian-American band called The Slants trademark registration over that name because it allegedly disparages Asians. The court heard oral argument in the case in January.

I’d thus ask Gorsuch: “When does offensive expression – in particular, offensive speech on political and social issues – lose protection under the First Amendment?”

Gorsuch already has submitted written answers to the Judiciary Committee on some issues, but not on the questions raised here. These topics – filming cops in public, protesting on streets and sidewalks, and using offensive language – seem especially relevant in a turbulent Trump era.

Clay Calvert, Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication, University of Florida

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.