Funeral Protests: Selected Federal Laws and Constitutional Issues

 

Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights that we as Americans have.  In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees free speech, though the United States, places limits on this freedom. In a series of landmark cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has helped to define what types of speech are—and aren’t—protected under U.S. law. According to The New York Times, CNN and USA Today the Westboro Baptist Church has been protesting military funerals for many years. The Church has gained national attention from the press because many of these views are considered to be very extreme and hate related. The Westboro Baptist Church is recognized as one of the most well known hate groups in the world. Its primary message is that God hates the United States and is punishing the country for its acceptance of homosexuality. The Church chooses to protest the funerals of fallen soldiers to make the point that in their opinion soldiers are dying as part of God’s punishment  for this country’s sins.

Do you think the 1st Amendment should protect the Westboro Baptist Church or should it be an exception and not allow the church to protest veterans funerals? I believe that the 1st amendment should protect the Westboro Baptist Church because if the court did rule against the church it would go against the first amendment directly. Since the protesters were protesting legally they can say whatever they want as long as it is within the law. That may seem harsh but, in reality the funeral attendees were never actually close enough to even see the protests, The father of  Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder said in a statement from CNN that, as he passed the protest he only saw the tops of the Westboro Baptist Church’s  signs. However, he was exposed to the signs and to the Church’s message when he saw the protest covered by the evening news; and later when he searched online to see what they had to say about his son. In conclusion I am with the law and the 1st Amendment that everything the Westboro Baptist Church had done is legal and is not punishable by the law. Although I do not agree with what the church did I think it was very disrespectful of the family and of America itself to protest at a funeral and say those horrible things.

 

Works Cited:

  • Funeral Protests: Selected Federal Laws and Constitutional IssuesKathleen Ann Ruane Legislative Attorney March 22, 2011Anon

Fas.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

 

  • Westboro Baptist Church

“Westboro Baptist Church.” Huffingtonpost.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

Huffpost has an entire section devoted to the westboro baptist church and is constantly updating it with recent news.

 

 

  • Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.com

 

“Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.Com.” TIME.com. N. p., 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

 

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To Kill A Mockingbird is being challenged!

Should To Kill a Mockingbird be banned from schools?

There are schools that believe that To Kill a Mockingbird should be banned from reading. A school district in Mississippi didn’t like how the book used racial issues and how it deals with civil rights. There are numerous instances in which it uses racial slurs about the black community. There was backlash but it was decided that the book would stay in the library. Some say that they could get the same message across using a different book and it has been constantly challenged since 1960, when it was released. Arne Duncan, president Obama’s former secretary of education, said that “When school districts remove ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from the reading list, we know we have real problems.”.

When it comes down to the 1st Amendment, the right to read for example, all students should be able to read To Kill A mockingbird, even if it has racial slurs. Some parents may want this gone as it is offensive to the black community but as Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Senator, put it, “Engaged parents should call the school district with the clear message: Our kids are tough enough to read a real book.”  There some reasons to remove the book from the 8th grade reading curriculum, but as it stands, it will most likely stay as a shared story in our schools.

Works Cited:

“’To Kill a Mockingbird’ Banned at Mississippi School.” Time, Time, time.com/4983786/biloxi-mississippi-school-ban-to-kill-a-mockingbird/.
Nelson, Karen. “Why Did Biloxi Pull ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from the 8th Grade Lesson Plan?”Sunherald, The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com/news/local/counties/jackson-county/article178572326.html.

Can Twitter or Facebook control fake news on their websites under the 1st amendment?

In the last year, we have never had such a problem with this thing called ‘Fake News’. Our president is one of the many people that are bothered by it in today’s society. But is there a way to control this nonsense that people read? Or are these “stories” protected under the 1st amendment? I’m here to tell you why these ‘Fake News’ stories can not be controlled under the 1st amendment.

Many social media outlets are trying to control the spread of fake news. According to Fortune.com, facebook has made updates in their system that shifts the balance of news you see towards sources that are determined to be trusted by the community.(1) one of Biggest Issues in the fake news debate is foreign involvement. Russia has been linked to influencing US elections and false or misleading stories according to CNN.(2) But by the time it’s out on the internet, the story can be shared all over. And with the 1st amendment and more specifically freedom of the press, the story or statements don’t need to be exactly true. The statement cannot be harmful to the person’s life or that would be slander and then not protected by the 1st amendment. There is a fine line that people have to walk on when reading these fake news sites or social media because you can’t trust everything you see.

Terrorism in Social Media

In July, 2016, Germany faced a wave of terrorist attacks. These attacks had connections to various posts on Facebook. The German government stated that they believed it was Facebook’s responsibility to turn over any information on future or past attacks. Later the following year, on Oct. 31, an Uzbek immigrant drove a truck into the sidewalks of Manhattan, killing 8 people. When he was detained, the New York Police found over 90 ISIS propaganda videos to which he clearly admitted to taking inspiration from. The question is, should social media sites have to legally turn over their user’s information if it implies a future attack or if it could shed light on an investigation for a past attack. And if not, should these sites be held culpable for these attacks to some extent. 

Some U.S. officials urge social media sites to work toward terrorism prevention. Joe Lieberman, a former Congress member, demanded that social media sites shouldn’t let terrorists have access to their sites at all, and believes that the internet is a primary force in the spread of terrorism. In 2012, Twitter announced a change to their censorship policy, stating that they are going to begin censoring tweets that break the law in your local area. They gave the following statement :

“… Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.”

Many people responded negatively to this, arguing that this was a violation of free speech. Some even threatened to stop tweeting if they didn’t repeal this clause.

There are various good and bad things that can come of actions such as this one. Yes, it is possible that this would lessen terrorist attacks. Yes, it could lessen hate speech. Yes, it could make the world a better place. But at what cost. Some say that this is a slippery slope to walk on. Once the public believes its ok to silence an opinion, who’s to say the government doesn’t silence another groups beliefs, maybe even yours. Is it worth possibly giving up your own freedom? What do they say? A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush.  

Should any book be banned from access in libraries just for the fact that the ideas behind them are controversial?

Within our society and as people with many different points of view often times we want our own thought to be understood by everyone else. Although, at times debate and discussion are less emphasized and more focused on the simple desire to force others to conform to the same ideas as our own. This can be seen in instances like schools where they are deciding if they should listen to the angry parents and ban Harry Potter, a notable book, for being related to wizardry and satanism. So, we have to wonder, should we ban any books that might have some controversy with how we want to raise our children?
Is silencing the voice of the writer and practically stripping them of their first amendment right? Nytimes raises one question to the issue. How do the students feel about books being banned? After All, the students are the ones that will be reading the books not the parents, so shouldn’t the students be able to decide what they want to read? For the most part, students answered the question like Erin, an 18 year old in highschool, did by stating “The world is huge, and diverse. Books, whether fiction or nonfiction, open a little part of that world to us. …I think the books helped me to grow up, to learn about the world”. On the other hand how are we to know if the kids are ready to read some books that might require a little bit more maturity or context. We can’t just throw 4th graders into a translated version of Mein Kampf. Thoughtco thnks the answer is just providing a supporting hand if the students need it, like the introduction to the use of the N word in older literature. PBS sees every book as a learning experience and any book that is banned for sensitive material is simply avoiding the problem. Learning new information along with the context in which it is delivered will help us grow as individuals and come to better ideas. Justice Louis D. Brandeis would agree with the fact of having no books banned as seen by a famous case of Whitney vs. California Justice where he stated
*377 “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
In essence stating that free speech should be protected and if some things may not sound right, then we can talk to change it. In the end, books are meant for spreading ideas in a way that can sometimes be easier than speeches or other sources. Why not use them as tools for learning and enlightenment?

 

Works Cites:
“What To Teach Students About Censorship And Book Banning In America.” ThoughtCo. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Whitney v. California [1927] 274 U.S. 357 No. 3 (Supreme Court of United States)
Schulten, Katherine. “Are There Books That Should Be Banned From Your School Library?.” The Learning Network. N. p., 1285. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Strum, Lora, and Lora Strum. “Banning Books Like ’13 Reasons Why’ Makes It Harder For Teens To Open Up To Adults, Author Says.” PBS NewsHour. N. p., 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

How should schools decide when and if praying is appropriate?

In 1962, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Engel vs. Vitale banned official school prayers (3). Today, many people, like Newt Gingrich, are fighting to pass a constitutional amendment that will allow such voluntary school prayer (1). According to the free exercise clause under the first amendment, all Americans have the right to whatever religious beliefs they choose. This idea comes into play when deciding whether schools should allow prayers. Since the people have the right to their own religious beliefs, praying should be strictly voluntary. If a student was forced into such activities, it would go against the freedom of religion under the Constitution. Praying being present in schools shouldn’t make students feel uncomfortable or forced to participate. In order to make praying an option, schools must consider when the time would be most appropriate to pray. For example, schools could have set times where students may pray if they wish to do so. For those who don’t wish to participate, they should be given freedom to use this downtime as they please. Having a schedule that works in this manner can prevent students from taking advantage of praying. Some students may use it as an excuse to get out of class or an assignment. Praying is a spiritual value that some students may practice at home, and it should be respected while at school. Also, it wouldn’t be very respectful for a student to up and leave during a lecture to go and pray. Praying shouldn’t interrupt the lesson plan or their learning. There has to be some restriction on when praying can occur, but fully taking away prayers strips students of their rights as Americans. Besides, more good than harm can come from praying in school. “Americans agree that our children have been hurt by violence, gangs, drugs, and teen sex and pregnancy. Prayer in school would not have any negative effects on the children of America” (1). The only time prayer could be a problem is when it starts to affect a student’s own academic performance, as well as their peers. Over the past few decades, polls have shown that the majority of Americans are in favor of allowing prayer in schools (1). Our government is based on majority rules, and the people have spoken, so they must be heard.

 

Works Cited

  1. Helms, Jesse A. and Ernest J. Istook Jr. “Should a School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Be Approved by Congress? PRO.” Congressional Digest, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 1995, p. 18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=9501252933&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  2. Helms, Jesse A. and Bary W. Lynn. “Should a School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Be Approved by Congress? CON.” Congressional Digest, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 1995, p. 19. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=9501252935&site=ehost-live&scope=site
  3. “Highlights of Pending Senate “School Prayer” Proposals.” Congressional Digest, vol. 53, no. 1, Jan. 1974, p. 4. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=10576975&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Free Expression on Social Media

Google, Facebook, and Twitter are social media companies that have people express their free speech on accounts or in search results. To contrast, Google has been struggling with free speech since 2006 from companies that expecting to see their websites at the top of the results instead wound up a few spots or are on the second page. So, the companies are filing antitrust lawsuits arguing that Google was manipulating its results to favor certain companies and stifle competition. But, Google been on a winning streak with the conventional wisdom around the notion that search results count as free speech. To add, Harvard Law School’s Noah Feldman added about Twitter, “there’s no right to free speech on Twitter and the only rule that Twitter Inc. gets to decide who speaks and listens–which is right under the First Amendment”. To agree with Noah on this many people post, tweet, and snap their opinion all the time, but whatever social media site people are on those companies can influence on what you hear and listen to. An example is Facebook, they explicitly ban hate speech and they delete about 66,000 hate speech posts a month worldwide.

 

 
Work Cited:

Caplan, L., Simonite, T., Griffith, E., Thompson, N., Matsakis, L., Matsakis, L. and Matsakis, L. Caplan, Lincoln et al. “Should Facebook And Twitter Be Regulated Under The First Amendment?.” WIRED, 2018, https://www.wired.com/story/should-facebook-and-twitter-be-regulated-under-the-first-amendment/.

Stern, Mark. “Google Says Search Results Are Free Speech. That’S Not Entirely Crazy. .” Slate Magazine, 2018, http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/11/are_google_results_free_speech_protected_by_the_first_amendment.html.

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” ~Benjamin Franklin, writing as Silence Dogood