Friday, December 08, 2006

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

My main hesitation in starting "Dorf on Law" was the question of whether I could find something to say every day. I shouldn't have worried. America is a wondrous country, in which each morning promises some legal question weirder than anything a law professor could dream up for a final exam. Today did not disappoint, as the Supreme Court granted review in a student speech case, Morse v. Frederick. (Read the 9th Circuit opinion here and read the cert petition here.) An Alaska high school suspended a student for 10 days for his refusal to stop displaying a banner that said "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," during a public gathering to watch the Olympic torch go by. The event took place on a school day, and the school had released students to attend the procession, so the school argued that Frederick's speech was within the purview of its regulation. Interestingly, the 9th Circuit agreed but ruled against the school anyway. Citing Tinker, the court found no serious risk of disruption of the school's educational mission.

There will be time, no doubt, for serious discussion of the important First Amendment questions the case raises. But for now, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to young Mr. Frederick for his decision to exercise his free speech rights in this most eloquent way. Thank you to the principal and school board for having the good sense not to ignore the banner and thereby make the issue go away in a few minutes. Thank you to Ken Starr, you who are so concerned about the use of coarse or offensive language in public settings, for taking this case on behalf of the school board to the Supreme Court. And of course, a giant thank you to the Justices of the Supreme Court, who, when criticized for their shrinking docket, made sure to take a case that is sure to provide countless hours of entertainment to everyone. Thank you all!