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.

Continue reading “Nutrition, labeling laws, and the changed circumstances doctrine”

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.

Continue reading “How do law schools teach the First Amendment?”

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?”

Forcing people to fill the war chests of political opponents in the name of “democracy”

Guest post by Ethan Blevins. Ethan graduated with a BA in political science from BYU-Idaho and a JD and LLM from Duke School of Law. He was a judicial clerk for Justice Don Willett of the Texas Supreme Court and is currently an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation. The views expressed in this post are his own.

Few subjects incite ire like campaign finance and the First Amendment. At a Trader Joe’s in Seattle not long ago, I was accosted by an activist seeking signatures for a petition to overturn Citizens United—perhaps the most notorious and misunderstood campaign-finance case of all time. Shoppers gladly signed his petition until he reached me.

Continue reading “Forcing people to fill the war chests of political opponents in the name of “democracy””

What does the March for Science say about GMOs?

The March for Science bills itself as a celebration of science. It warns of “an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus.” “Policies that ignore scientific evidence,” the group says, “endanger both human life and the future of our world.”

The same can be said of the federal government’s plans to mandate GMO labeling.

Continue reading “What does the March for Science say about GMOs?”