In 2016, Bennie L. Hart applied for a vanity license plate emblazoned with "IM GOD." The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet refused to issue the plate, apparently because it was related to religion. With the support of the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Hart took the matter to court. And finally, U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled that the First Amendment limits the state's power to put the kibosh on the plate. From WDRB:
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(The judge wrote) that courts have ruled that such plates convey a “personalized message with intrinsic meaning … specific to the owner.” Even the state’s own statute establishing the program describes such plates as consisting of “personal letters or numbers significant to the applicant,” the judge wrote.
Further, the judge wrote, if the cabinet’s permission to use a vanity plate constituted a “stamp of approval” from the state, the government would be “babbling prodigiously” and “saying many unseemly things...."
“If the Transportation Cabinet genuinely wants to avoid controversy on Kentucky’s highways by preventing ‘promotion of any specific faith, religion, or anti-religion’ from appearing on vanity plates,” the judge wrote, “then it should have denied 'IM4GOD', 'ASKGOD', 'GR8GOD', 'LUVGOD'. But it did not," (Van Tatenhove wrote.)
At the Madeira Municipal Building in Ohio, a high school student's artwork depicting a pig in a police uniform was taken down by the organizers of an annual student art show. In the artwork, the pig is standing in front of collaged newspaper headlines about police using deadly force. Guess what? People complained.
The unnamed student created the artwork as a response to the following assignment:
“Take current event articles published in newspapers or magazines on a similar topic and then summarize those articles into a visual representation of the feelings and emotions within the articles selected.”
The Madeira Police Department would not confirm or deny whether they asked for the painting to be removed. From WCPO:
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“The members of the Madeira Police Department fully respect and support the student’s right to free speech and recognize that this young artist is very talented,” (a police) statement reads. “However, officers are troubled by the perceived message of the student’s art project.”
So was Lt. Dan Hils, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police and a frequent defender of Cincinnati officers whose use of force becomes the subject of public discussion. On Monday night, Hils said he was saddened by the piece but would not have asked for it to be removed.
“For me, the word I think of is just a little disappointed — disappointed that there is youth that believe that of police officers,” he said, adding: “It’s a beautiful thing our country has — the ability for people to express how they feel and this young person was expressing how they feel.
The action was brought in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, against DNI Dan Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, NSA Director Paul Nakasone, and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
In Montana today, a federal judge said the First Amendment doesn't protect a pro-Nazi internet publisher from being sued for instructing his readers to unleash a "troll storm" that materialized in a barrage of anti-Semitic threats against a Jewish woman and her family in Whitefish. Read the rest
CNN is suing President Donald Trump and various White House aides over the administration's ban on chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Read the rest
It's an emoji-fied version of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Read the rest
Last week, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson won a major ruling in his quest to distribute gun-printing software. The video above from February outlines the background of the case. Read the rest
A few weeks ago we were shocked to learn that Playboy had, without notifying us, sued us over this post (we learned about it when a journalist DM'ed us on Twitter to ask about it). Today, we filed a motion to dismiss, asking the judge to throw out this baseless, bizarre case. We really hope the courts see it our way, for all our sakes.
Playboy’s lawsuit is based on an imaginary (and dangerous) version of US copyright law that bears no connection to any US statute or precedent. Playboy -- once legendary champions for the First Amendment -- now advances a fringe copyright theory: that it is illegal to link to things other people have posted on the web, on pain of millions in damages -- the kinds of sums that would put us (and every other small publisher in America) out of business.
Rather than pursuing the individual who created the allegedly infringing archive, Playboy is pursuing a news site for pointing out the archive’s value as a historical document. In so doing, Playboy is seeking to change the legal system so that deep-pocketed opponents of journalism can shut down media organizations that displease them. It's a law that they could never get from Congress, but which they hope the courts will conjure into existence by wiping us off the net.
It's not just independent publishers who rely on the current state of copyright law, either. Major media outlets (like Playboy!) routinely link and embed media, without having to pay a lawyer to research the copyright status of something someone else posted, before discussing, explaining or criticizing it. Read the rest
A man named Ron Mello has set up a GoFundMe account to help support Juli Briskman after she was fired for showing Trump her middle finger. As of 13 November at 8:20am PT, $57,860 has been pledged.
As you'll recall, the 50 year old Briskman was riding her bike alongside Trump's motorcade last week and she took the opportunity to express her feelings for Trump by flipping off the vehicles as they passed. After she posted a photo of herself to facebook, her employer, Akima LCC fired her. "She said that after the image surfaced her bosses informed her she had breached the company’s social media policy because she made the photo her profile picture," reports The Independent.
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This jerk at an NFL game doesn't feel folks should protest civil injustice against black Americans by kneeling, but thinks the flag is there to keep his ass dry. Read the rest
Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler is proud of the way his news organization is able to provide high-quality, fact-based journalism in oppressive places like Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, "nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists." Here's his list of dos and don'ts for staffers:
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--Cover what matters in people’s lives and provide them the facts they need to make better decisions.
--Become ever-more resourceful: If one door to information closes, open another one.
--Give up on hand-outs and worry less about official access. They were never all that valuable anyway. Our coverage of Iran has been outstanding, and we have virtually no official access. What we have are sources.
--Get out into the country and learn more about how people live, what they think, what helps and hurts them, and how the government and its actions appear to them, not to us.
--Keep the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles close at hand, remembering that “the integrity, independence and freedom from bias of Reuters shall at all times be fully preserved.”
--Never be intimidated, but:
--Don’t pick unnecessary fights or make the story about us. We may care about the inside baseball but the public generally doesn’t and might not be on our side even if it did.
--Don’t vent publicly about what might be understandable day-to-day frustration. In countless other countries, we keep our own counsel so we can do our reporting without being suspected of personal animus.
Peter from the National Coalition Against Censorship writes, "A California official removed an artwork by skateboarding icon Scott Olson from a public building because he said it was 'obscene.' Sorry, the First Amendment exists to prevent this kind of thing. Read the rest
Many agriculture-heavy states have passed laws criminalizing recording videos of animal cruelty and illegal workplace and food hygiene practices, but one judge in Idaho isn't having any of it. Read the rest
"Ever wonder what would happen when you get confronted by MP's and military investigation unit outside of the base and don't say much to them?"—Bunny Boots Ink. Read the rest
Man arrested for briefly failing to keep moving #Ferguson/Jon Swaine/@jonswaine
The ACLU was denied an emergency injunction against Ferguson's cops' illegal "no standing on the sidewalk" rule because Ferguson promised to erect a "free speech zone," but the only thing on that site is a fenced-off, locked-up pen that no one is allowed to use. Read the rest