Monday, June 25, 2007

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

In recognition of what is sure to become an example of 1st Amendment history gone amuck, I share the following tragic story:

Student loses ruling over "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A high school student who was suspended for unfurling a banner saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" did not have his rights violated, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday in its first major decision on student free-speech rights in nearly 20 years.
The high court's conservative majority ruled that a high school principal in Juneau, Alaska, did not violate the student's constitutional free-speech rights by confiscating the banner and then suspending him.
Student Joseph Frederick says the banner's language was meant to be nonsensical and funny, a prank to get on television as the Winter Olympic torch relay passed by the school in January 2002.
But school officials say the phrase "bong hits" refers to smoking marijuana. Principal Deborah Morse suspended Frederick for 10 days because she said the banner advocated or promoted illegal drug use in violation of school policy.
Frederick, 18, had been standing on a public sidewalk across the street from the school when Morse grabbed his banner and crumpled it. Students had been allowed out of class to watch the event.
The majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts said the court agreed with Morse that those who viewed the banner would interpret it as advocating or promoting illegal drug use, in violation of school policy.
Roberts, who was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, said a principal may, consistent with the First Amendment, restrict student speech at a school event when it is reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use.
Liberal Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented on the constitutional issue. Justice Breyer said he would have decided the case without reaching the constitutional issue by ruling the principal cannot be held liable for damages.

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