Friday, April 21, 2006

Freedom From Being Offended Trumps First Ammendment

Eugene Volokh on the Harper v. Poway Unified School district ruling:
This is a very bad ruling, I think. It's a dangerous retreat from our tradition that the First Amendment is viewpoint-neutral. It's an opening to a First Amendment limited by rights to be free from offensive viewpoints. It's a tool for suppression of one side of public debates (about same-sex marriage, about Islam, quite likely about illegal immigration, and more) while the other side remains constitutionally protected and even encouraged by the government.
Another wonderful 9th court ruling from my former home state. Poway, incidentally, is just down the mountain from where I graduated from high school.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was just researching this case, and came across your post. Although I do agree with you that the right to express your viewpoints has long been protected in and out of school under the first amendment, there has long been restrictions on such language in a school setting. Not because of its political, religious nature but because of its likelihood to lead to disruption, and offend other students rights. Check out past cases dealing with this issue one of the leading ones tinker v. Desmoines, and bethel school district. It is not saying anything about the abilities of students to use political or viewpoint related speech but rather it is going to the conduct that intereferes with the rights of other students and education. Just thought you'd like some info on the subject.

Michael said...

Anon said:

I was just researching this case, and came across your post. Although I do agree with you that the right to express your viewpoints has long been protected in and out of school under the first amendment, there has long been restrictions on such language in a school setting. Not because of its political, religious nature but because of its likelihood to lead to disruption, and offend other students rights.

With regards to disruption I would point to the original event that the student was responded to, the "Day of Silence" held by the Gay-Straight Alliance which the article says was "disrupted by protests and conflicts between students." That to me seems like a clear activity whose right to free speech can be trumped by the "likelihood to lead to disruption" argument. What say you about that?

With regards to offending student rights -- what rights were offended? Again, this sounds like an argument from "the right to not be offended," which doesn't exist.

lokki said...

'The right not to be offended' reminds me of a particular AP History class... and the 'Bill of No Rights' which included such gems as 'You do not have the right to a big-screen TV', and 'You do not have the right *not* to be offended'.

;)