Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is it Speech?

I am providing a link to the First Amendment Law Professors Blog that notes the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard oral arguments on whether or not New Jersey violated the First Amendment when it declined to authorize bumper stickers with this phrase on it on grounds that it was "too controversial."

The license plates, which are similar to Indiana's (and other states') "In God We Trust" plates, have the words "Choose Life" on them. I'll give you three guesses what the "controversial" word is.

9 comments:

Feisty 'Bama Princess said...

Well, my guess is that if the words were "pro choice" there would have been no debate at all. At times, I feel that even being a Christian with certain values causes some to label me a "hate monger" or even better, "intolerant" (my personal fave!). I'm neither but why isn't my free speech protected by the ACLU?

Steve said...

The ACLU's job is to protect the free speech rights of all Americans. Have you ever been told by the ACLU that your free speech isn't protected? RHM knows a bit more than I about the ACLU and their mission.

I disagree with your contention that if the license plate said "pro choice" there'd be no debate - I rather think if that were the case, it would be receiving much more attention.

What I actually think is that the anti-choice crowd is opposed to this specifically because it includes the word "Choose." Granted, it presents a pro-life message (one might be surprised at how few pro-choice people out there oppose abortion in principle, and how many pro-lifers out there have nonetheless had abortions), which, one might think would be a compelling position, but it represents the concept of a choice, and for many people, that just can't be.

Feisty 'Bama Princess said...

Okay, I live with a lawyer, so I am fully aware of what the job of the ACLU is supposed to be. I've never personally had a time when I dealt with the ACLU over a free speech issue but as Christians, yes, WE have. I don't know of one single case where the ACLU has defended the free speech rights of christians. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have certainly never heard of one. Also, I couldn't tell if this was talking about license plates or bumper stickers.... Having this language on ALL license plates is a "controversial issue". For all anyone knows, they could be talking about that old WHAM! song!!

Feisty 'Bama Princess said...

Also, when I say defending "christians free speech rights", I mean a case that is a decidedly "christian issue" like "see you at the pole" or praying at football games or keeping bibles in front of government buildings etc....

Steve said...

You are free to pray at as many football games as you'd like.

What you can't do is use a public forum such as a high school football game to foist your religious views on others through coerced prayer. This would necessarily protect Christian free speech rights inasmuch as it precludes Muslim, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, and other prayers being led at public events as well.

More often than not, however, the marginalized, downtrodden Christians have other rsources with which to fight their fight, such as James Dobson's or Pat Robertson, and as such, the need to defend these individuals is not as dire as the agnostic in New Jersey forced to listen to a rabbi deliver a commencement prayer against his or her wishes, or the Buddhist airman who must listen to a Christian invocation at a graduation he is required by direct order to attend.

As far as the license plates go, it's no more than an optional plate, no different than a Texas Wildflowers plate, or a plate that has Texas Christian University on it - in other words, is a plate choice and would not be mandated for anyone.

Feisty 'Bama Princess said...

I think my point is being missed entirely...

Gramma said...

Princess, I don't really "get" what you are trying to express. I am a Christian, and have taken many hits in my 22 years in public education about such issues as taking God out of public school. No one did that. But that is what I think you are talking about. Or maybe you are saying, "when someone else' rights interfere with mine, why don't I notice someone like the ACLU supporting me?" I am a Methodist, and to carry on the analogy, I don't want my children in public school being forced to learn Christianity from a Baptist or a Mormon. I disagree with elements of both. And support their right to their beliefs. Or MAYBE this is closer to what you were getting at: (?) at Christmas we were told not to do artwork or wear jewelry or clothing that celebrated the Christian season because it might be offensive to other religions. That is where the rights of others trample on mine. My freedom of expression is stifled. This directive was given by a man wearing a Santa Claus tie, and we all know St Nicholas was a bishop in the Russian Orthodox church centuries ago: a Christian. I had a student in second grade whisper to me once "We're not allowed to say 'Christmas' at school." Isn't that sad?

photog said...

Any interesting question: whether license plates are a public forum and whether first amendment rights attach thereto.

I'm not certain I buy the "confrontational" justification for not issuing plates with abortion-themed messages. After all, couldn't a UT plate be seen as state endorsement of the Univ. of Texas, much to the chagrin of A&M fans. Might staunch conservatives take issue with the pseudo-liberal "Justice for All" plates.

Once again, law is playing catch-up to reality. The State began issuing specialty plates to increase revenue for both the state and (marginally) the entity. Now that "controversial" entities want to promote their own plate, the State has to determine whether they actually intended to create a public forum.

I say, let's go back to the standard plate. Then citizens of whatever political, social, or religious bent can clutter the back of vehicles with old fashioned bumper stickers.

"Save the Whales" and "Mean People Suck"

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