Op-ed on political apparel ban

American Thinker has published my op-ed on PLF’s cert petition in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky. I begin the piece by explaining the importance of expression at the polling place:

The American polling place. It’s one of the iconic symbols of American freedom.  Whether it be the local high school gymnasium, a meeting room at the public library, or a neighbor’s garage, the polling place is a hallowed space where citizens of all backgrounds and beliefs come together to discharge the defining privilege of a democracy — the exercise of the franchise.

Read the rest.

 

One big First Amendment case at the Court; two more on the way?

The Supreme Court will be back in session in just under two weeks. The Court already has one big First Amendment case on its docket, and might be adding a few more in the next few weeks.

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court will decide whether Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, which requires a cake artist to design custom cakes for same-sex weddings, violates the compelled speech doctrine of the First Amendment. The Cato Institute recently filed a brief in support of the bakery, arguing that “although making cakes may not initially appear to be speech to some, it is a form of artistic expression and therefore constitutionally protected.” Cato’s brief is one of nearly 50 briefs (by my quick count) in support of the bakery. These 50 briefs include one from the United States, which argues that the Colorado Law violates the First Amendment because the law “compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate . . . in a ceremony or other expressive event.” Colorado is scheduled to file its brief next month, and we’ll see how many friend-of-the court briefs it gets in its favor. Given the magnitude of this case, I’m guessing there will be many.

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Jabez and the First Amendment

Jabez Oates is a four-year-old boy who was excited to start his first day of Pre-K. His mother Jessica was shocked to learn that the Barbers Hill Independent School District would not let him attend school, because he is a boy with long hair. (You can read more about Jabez’s story in Newsweek, Huffington Post, and several other outlets).

Last week, my colleague Joshua Thompson and I informed the school district of the legal problems of its ban on boys with long hair. For example, the ban violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. As we told the school district in a letter:

[T]he school district’s actions violate the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects not just words, but also conduct that’s sufficiently communicative. In one case, a Houston-based federal court held that a school district’s policy that required a Native American child to cover his braids violated the Free Speech Clause. The court found that the policy was unconstitutional because it burdened more speech than necessary to promote the school’s stated interests of promoting order, discipline, and hygiene. The same can be said of [the school district’s] policy here.

You can read the rest of the letter here and another blog post about this issue here. Let’s hope the school district decides to do the right thing, and allows Jabez the opportunity to go to Pre-K and meet his new friends.

Nutrition, labeling laws, and the changed circumstances doctrine

This November, health expert Aaron Carroll will release his latest book: The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully. The book debunks common myths about nutrition.

For example, many people once viewed salt as a hypertension-causing monster. Yet, after examining the scientific evidence, Carroll concludes that people with normal blood pressure should be more worried about getting too little sodium than getting too much.

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How do law schools teach the First Amendment?

Thousands of law students around the country are buying their books and heading back to school. Many of them took Constitutional Law during their first year. Only a handful learned much about the First Amendment.

In law school, a course on the First Amendment is usually offered as an upper-class elective. But that presents another problem. Even top-notch law professors have trouble cramming all there is to know about the First Amendment in one semester.

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What’s next for the Supreme Court?

The last Supreme Court term ended in June with two huge victories for free speech. The next term might bring more of the same.

This fall, the justices will decide whether to hear a free speech case that could have major ramifications for voters across the country. In Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, I represent Minnesota voters in their First Amendment challenge to a government-imposed dress code at polling places in the North Star State.

Continue reading “What’s next for the Supreme Court?”