Friday, December 08, 2006

The etymology of “bong hits 4 jesus”

Derek commented on my last post that, contrary to Ken Starr’s assertion, it’s not entirely obvious that “bong hits 4 jesus” is a pro-drug statement, noting that “Jews for Jesus doesn’t seem to be a blatantly pro-Jewish message.” This in turn got me wondering about the phrase’s origin. If you Google “bong hits 4 Jesus,” nearly every entry that comes up refers to the case, and many of these stories assume that the plaintiff, Joseph Frederick, came up with this motto. But some further sleuthing definitively shows this not to be true.

I found a website that sells “Bong hits 4 Jesus!” bumper stickers which include not only the phrase but also a picture of, what else, Jesus taking a bong hit. Did the people at the website got the idea from the Juneau case? Possibly, but if so, Frederick and his fellow free speakers in turn got it from someone else. I found a story on each of two consecutive days in two different Florida newspapers describing a VW van at a Grateful Dead concert that was festooned with, among other things, a Bong Hits for Jesus bumper sticker. The stories date from April 1994. So we can be certain that Joseph Frederick did not invent “bong hits 4 jesus.”

Note, though, that the placement of the sticker on a VW van at a Grateful Dead concert is about as clear proof as one could require in this life for the proposition that Bong Hits 4 Jesus is a PRO-drug statement. And no, Ken Starr, if you use that fact in your merits brief or in the oral argument, you don’t need to credit me for the research. Knowledge is its own reward.