Supreme Court: Yes to Faith, No to 'Bong Hits'
Mon Jun 25, 2007 12:39


Supreme Court: Yes to Faith, No to 'Bong Hits'

Supreme Court hands victory to Bush on faith-based initiatives
Raw Story, MA - 2 hours ago
On a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a group of
taxpayers did not have standing to sue the US government for
its funding of faith-based ...

Supreme Court: Yes to Faith, No to 'Bong Hits'
By Susan Jones Senior Editor
June 25, 2007

( - The Supreme Court handed down two long-awaited rulings involving religion and free speech on Monday.

The justices ruled against an atheist group that challenged President Bush's faith-based initiative on the grounds that taxpayer dollars should not be used to advance religion. And in another ruling, the justices said public schools may censor students like the one in Alaska, who held up a banner proclaiming the nonsensical phrase, "Bong hits 4 Jesus."

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the Freedom From Religion Foundation did not have the standing to bring the "faith-based" case on behalf of taxpayers.

In 2001, President Bush signed an executive order creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to funnel tax dollars to religious groups that provide public welfare services.

Atheists argued that the government was giving preferential treatment to religious organizations. They argued that there should be no faith-based office in any branch of government because such offices amount to the "establishment of religion."

Christian groups, however, urged the Supreme Court to put an end to federal taxpayer lawsuits by church-state separationists.

The American Center for Law & Justice, in a friend of the court brief, argued that atheists enjoy special privileges by being able to file lawsuits simply because they are "taxpayers" -- and without having to show they were actually injured in some way by a law or government activity.

'No' to 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus'

Also on Monday, the Justices overturned a lower-court ruling that found a public school in Juneau violated Joe Frederick's First Amendment rights by forcing him to remove the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign - even though he was not standing on school property.

The school suspended Frederick for the prank

The Justices decided that schools have leeway to fight anything deemed to be a pro-drug message, since that is part of their mission.

"The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the case put Christian groups and the American Civil Liberties Union on the same side of the debate.

The ACLU defended Frederick's right to free speech. And Christian groups who disagreed with Frederick's message also objected to the idea of allowing school districts to "arbitrarily decide what's offensive and off-limits," as the American Center for Law & Justice put it.

See Earlier Stories: Christians and ACLU in Unlikely Partnership (20 Mar. 2007) Atheists Have Had 'Free Pass' For Too Long, Law Group Says (1 Mar. 2007)

Analysts Mull Possibility of Supreme Court Vacancy

( - If a U.S. Supreme Court justice steps down in the coming months, the Bush administration may have an easier time filling the seat with a conservative nominee than is generally expected, some political analysts argue. As the first full term in which Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justice Samuel Alito have served together draws to a close, retirement speculation focuses on Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both liberals. Stevens is 87 years old; and although Ginsburg is 13 years younger, her frail appearance has often prompted conjecture of poor health. Quin Hillyer, senior editor for the American Spectator and a regular contributor for the conservative blog ConfirmThem, told Cybercast News Service that a confirmation fight could be beneficial for President Bush. While the president's approval ratings remain poor, Hillyer said Bush "would receive a significant jump in approval if he nominated a solid, impressive conservative for the Supreme Court.
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CAP Report Finds A “Structural Imbalance Of Political Talk Radio”
Streaming Magazine, FL - 5 hours ago
According to the report, conservative Talk dominates the format with 91 percent of the total weekday Talk Radio programming while just nine percent is ...
GOOGLE: TALK RADIO,0,4072625.column
Talk radio doesn't need Fairness Doctrine

George Diaz


June 24, 2007

Perceptions are a funny thing. We hear what we want to hear, filtering out any piece of information that does not suit our agenda.

That may include common sense. Example: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was criticized recently for challenging Hispanics to learn English. He urged them not to rely on Spanish-only media, a statement that rankled Spanish-only media.

Schwarzenegger was simply applying common sense to assimilation. You only deny yourself by hiding behind the comfort zone of your native language. Learning a new language means increased opportunities.

The message somehow got caught up in Schwarzenegger's blunt honesty.

But those filters also offer us a comfort zone, on which we can validate our beliefs. It is what draws us to the chitchat world of talk radio, and a 24-7 stream of yada-yada-yada.

A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress and Free Press indicates that liberal voices are getting drowned out in the rapid-fire passion of conservatives.

The scorecard says that of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners, "91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming was conservative, and only nine percent was progressive."

The last part was bold-faced in the report for greater emphasis. Responding with bold-faced retribution, liberal politicians are reportedly seeking to pursue reinstatement of the so-called Fairness Doctrine.

The American Spectator reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are behind the charge. Over the years, other politicians, mostly Democrats, have pushed for changes, but there's been no legislative traction.

The doctrine is archaic, dating back to the 1934. It called for stations to offer "equal opportunity" to all legally qualified political candidates running for office. The intent was to ensure even-handedness during a time of limited radio frequencies.

Most of those stipulations were dumped during the Reagan administration. Media outlets had mushroomed by then, coupled with a stronger push toward First Amendment rights that allowed journalists more leeway in broadcasting content.

It has helped spawn some of the talk-show insanity that thrives today, but that does not mean the beast needs to be tamed. If anything, the beast grows stronger with the Internet explosion and the boundless stream of blogs that come with the package deal.

If you don't like what you hear or read, you can simply click it off with no worries.

It's no different than music. If 91 percent of radio stations in America chose to play Celine Dion, I would look for the 9 percent solution elsewhere on the dial, hoping to find something palatable to my ears. Somehow, my heart will go on.

Talk radio pushes more hot buttons than music because of the content. But once you start trying to homogenize and balance content to extremes, we lose the essence of free speech.

It goes to the heart of allowing racists in silly white sheets to march along our streets, as despicable as it is. You can't parcel freedom of expression away as you see appropriate.

Besides, you can't just say anything you want on the airwaves without repercussions. Just ask Don Imus.

My taste buds have an aversion to Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Lou Dobbs, but I'm not going to tell you to ignore them if that's whom you crave.

You hear what you want to hear.

"The Fairness Doctrine would kill talk radio as we know it," Fox News talk-show host Sean Hannity said recently.

Finally, something liberals and conservatives should agree on.

George Diaz can be reached at 407-420-5533 or

Copyright 2007, Orlando Sentinel

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