Bong Hits 4 Jesus

Bong Hits 4 Jesus
Posted by CN Staff on March 20, 2007 at 07:08:07 PT
By Dahlia Lithwick
Source: Slate
Washington, DC -- We've come a long way since "Fuck the Draft." The history of free speech in America features a long proud march of embattled speakers pushing back against government authority. Whereas today's free-speech heroes pretty much just want to be zany enough for YouTube.In the old days, whether they were claiming that government workers were "God damned racketeers" (in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire); protesting the war in Vietnam with armbands (Tinker v. Des Moines) or foul words (Cohen v. California); declining to "live free or die" (Wooley v. Maynard) or asserting the controversial right to burn a flag (Texas v. Johnson) these folks had the courage of their convictions.
And because of John and Mary Beth Tinker—who wore black armbands to school to protest the war—the Supreme Court once agreed that student free-speech rights don't disappear at the schoolhouse gate. Today's court isn't so certain.Alaska high-school student Joseph Frederick hoisted his 14-foot "Bong hits 4 Jesus" banner to get on TV. He knew it was a meaningless phrase. He'd seen it on a snowboard. (Nine out of 10 potheads I polled for this piece confirmed these words are no more meaningful when stoned.) But Frederick wanted to annoy school administrators, and he wanted media attention, and as we discovered today, he chose well on both fronts. He was suspended for 10 days. And we are out in droves to cover his case. The words "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" do grab headlines, and even the justices seem to be giggling and getting the munchies as they speak the words this morning. Frederick held up his banner for the TV cameras, just opposite school property during a local event celebrating the Olympic torch relay in 2002. The principal seized the sign and suspended him. He sued, and while he lost in the trial court, he won at the 9th Circuit Court of appeals, which went so far as to say that the principal could owe him money damages. The court today must decide whether Frederick's banner is more like Tinker's black armband or a disruptive call to lawless drug use.Oral argument in Morse v. Frederick does reveal some of the worst aspects of sharing a bong. The first being paranoia. Because according to Kenneth Starr, former righteous independent counsel—now tanned Californian law-school dean—the fate of the drug wars depends upon the unconditional school message that drugs are bad, yet schools cannot enforce that message because smartass kids keep undermining them. Starr's alternative (and if you ask me, far more paranoia-inducing) universe: Schools get limitless discretion to craft broad "educational missions" and are then free to squelch any student speech that "undermines" them. The justices appear to loathe each alternative about equally. At some point, Justice Stephen Breyer groans that a ruling for the students would encourage them to be "testing limits all over the place in the high schools," whereas a ruling for the schools would certainly end up limiting lots of speech. Starr opens with the statement that "the glorification of the drug culture" is at stake here. He claims that schools, even under the broad standard laid out in the armband case, can't necessarily limit political protest but may bar "disruptive speech." This sets the court's hippies off. Justice Anthony Kennedy: "There's no classroom here." Justice David Souter: "What did it disrupt on the sidewalk?" Starr insists that "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" promotes drugs. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asks whether a sign that said "Bong Stinks for Jesus" would be more permissible. Souter asks whether a simple sign reading "Change the Marijuana Laws" would also be "disruptive." Starr says that interpreting the meaning of the sign must be left to the "frontline message interpreter," in this case, the principal. Then Starr says schools are charged with inculcating "habits and manners of civility" and "values of citizenship." Yes, sir. In the first six minutes of oral argument Starr has posited, without irony, a world in which students may not peaceably advocate for changes in the law, because they must be inculcated with the values of good citizenship.Chief Justice John Roberts wonders why students should be allowed to set the classroom agenda when teachers are trying to teach Shakespeare and Pythagoras. Starr says that in the Vietnam protest case, the school tried to "cast a pall of orthodoxy" by banning student protest. Whereas, he suggests—again without a whiff of irony—that students should be able to offer no dissenting opinions here because drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are bad.Breyer (who seems to be having one of those "my hand looks sooooo big" trips) thinks maybe a better rule is one that bans any and all 15-foot banners on field trips. Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler argues the school's side of the case on behalf of the Bush administration. Justice Samuel Alito finds it "very, very disturbing" that schools can define their "educational missions so broadly" that they can limit important student speech. He's worried about the evangelical groups, who sit, improbably, at the stoners' table in the cafeteria today. These groups worry, not unreasonably, that the targets of most school suppression of politically incorrect speech are religious students sporting pro-Jesus or anti-gay T-shirts. Souter again insists that the "bong hits" statement itself should be scrutinized for its meaning. The way Cheech and Chong might strive to seek meaning in a Hansen song. But Kneedler responds that the only person who can determine the banner's meaning is the educator who banned it. "But won't the principal always prevail?" asks Justice John Paul Stevens. Um, yes. That seems to be the point.By the time Douglas Mertz gets up to argue on the students' side, it looks like he's already won, if for no other reason than the justices appear horrified by the limitless power the schools are asserting. But somehow he manages to trigger a second, more terrifying episode of paranoia in them. "This is a case about free speech, not drugs," he opens, but Roberts clocks him with: "This is a case about money. Your client wants money from the principal for her actions." Then Kennedy jumps in to ask what kind of kid would go after "a teacher who has devoted her life to this school, and you're seeking damages from her for a sophomoric sign." Scalia begins to bogart the argument at this point and asks whether a school that held an anti-drug rally in the gym would have to permit a student to wear a button that says, "Smoke pot. It's fun." Mertz repeats that student protest can't be "disruptive." Scalia retorts that "undermining what the school is trying to teach" is pretty disruptive. Kennedy asks about a student sporting a button that says, "Rape is fun." Mertz says students may not advocate violent crime. This sets Scalia off again. "So, they can only advocate non-violent crime?" he snorts. "Like, 'Extortion is profitable?' " He adds that "this is a very, very, with all due respect, ridiculous line."Now they all start to bicker about disputed questions of fact. Like whether it matters that the students were given time off to watch the Olympic torch, or that Frederick still wants the record of his suspension expunged, or that Frederick played hooky so that he could hold up his banner, yet specifically went to a spot directly next to the school to join his classmates (thus reaping the benefits of skipping school while still attending school for the purposes of annoying the school administrators). Ginsburg's eyes are getting redder by the minute. Ken Starr is now eating everything in sight. It's hard to imagine that the students of America will be better served by giving their educators the ultimate gateway drug: the apparently limitless power to define their "educational mission" in any way they please in order to suppress any and all student speech that doesn't conform. That kind of power strikes me as more addictive, and even more dangerous, than any drug.Note: Because you just can't improve on "Bong hits 4 Jesus."Source: Slate (US Web)Author: Dahlia LithwickPublished: Monday, March 19, 2007Copyright: 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLCContact: letters slate.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:ACLU Up in Smoke At The High Court’ Right To Free Speech Debate Student's Suspension for Banner
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Comment #15 posted by Hope on March 21, 2007 at 05:35:12 PT
Thanks, Whig. I appreciate your concern. I know you have suffered a lot of pain in your life.There is so much pain, grief, sorrow, and sickness in life, it's hard to understand people making such a big!... over people using a natural, non poisonous herb to alleviate some of that misery.It's hard for me to understand why the prohibitionists can't see the horror and cruelty of their actions against people. Of course I think of Runruff, Herb Doc and all the others. The sorrow is sickening in itself.
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Comment #14 posted by whig on March 20, 2007 at 15:47:43 PT
Just saying hi. Sorry to hear of your daughter's illness.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on March 20, 2007 at 13:55:52 PT
I am glad she is doing better. I can imagine how homesick you must be by now. It's hard when you must live somewhere besides your own home even when it is because it is necessary.
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Comment #12 posted by Hope on March 20, 2007 at 13:42:48 PT
Thanks, FoM
You guys are on my mind, too. Sometimes I get a chance to read but don't get time to comment.My daughter is back at work this week, but she is far from well. I'm hoping and praying she is going to be ok. It's slow though. I've enjoyed being with her and her children, but I am likely going home this weekend and will come back to do some chores for her a couple of times a week. As much as I like being with them all the time...I'm getting a bit homesick, too.
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Comment #11 posted by Sam Adams on March 20, 2007 at 12:50:33 PT
Isn't it illegal to approach someone on the sidewalk and tear up one of their posessions? Isn't that assault? Larceny? Vandalism? Or trespassing, disturbing the peace, something like that? Principal Morse should be punished for infringing on the kid's freedom in a public place, off school grounds. She has no jurisdiction there.I remember at my high school, the cool laid-back principal was replaced by a dark, twisted, sadistic woman when I was there. She turned the campus into a fortified prison camp with uniformed guards. I think it was the rich people that were moving into the town that didn't want any partying or embarrassment from the high school to affect their property values.I'm sorry that we Americans seem to be better at selling out than our peers around the world. That seems to be our specialty.
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Comment #10 posted by whig on March 20, 2007 at 11:12:41 PT
nuevo mexican
The current dynamic is turning the prosecutors on the administration. Let the Republicans' house be divided against itself.
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Comment #9 posted by nuevo mexican on March 20, 2007 at 10:40:35 PT
The video we've been waiting for! Go Rocky!
And Dennis!Dennis Kucinich, Dem. Rep and Candidate for President again, AND Rocky Anderson, Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, who should also consider running:Watch these videos, and then ask yourself, what can I do, that I haven't already done.Whether it is setting my intention to end the prohibition of Cannabis, ending War, Creating Peace, and holding our countries' self-imposed leaders accountable, it is our DUTY as Citizens of the United States, to do so.'The Power of the People is to hold in check the power of the Executive'. I'm watching conservatives on C-Span speak on Presidential Power, and they're saying the Police State is almost here, I say, it's almost complete, and at that stage, it will fall!Here are the links!Video: Salt Lake City Mayor calls for Bush impeachment dennis at 1-877-41-DENNISImpeachment: I'm asking you. Do you think it's time?
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on March 20, 2007 at 10:15:59 PT
You've been on my mind and I hope all is well with your daughter. It's really good to see you. 
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Comment #7 posted by museman on March 20, 2007 at 09:52:32 PT
and they call it 'work'
What those judges do. They draw 6 figure incomes. They have power that has never been challenged, and they have it for life. At least half of them were put there by conservatives. How much do you think has been drained from the hands of the common laborer to the accounts of the judges and their backers?And this is what they do. Arbitrate silliness. Obviously common sense and intellectual solidarity aren't taught in law school. This is a lawyers game, and it costs lives and resources that could be put to so much better use -like all the wars that the judges support and write into law.The 'profession' of 'law' should be made illegal. Educated people should follow the actual precedents of real law which is founded on the biblical 'ten commandments' and supposedly Y'SHWH's law of Love. Put quite simply, "Judge not, lest you be judged." Is there some kind of exemption for rich lawyers in this statement of Y'SHWH?
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on March 20, 2007 at 09:22:57 PT
I agree with what you say in both your comments. I'm getting sick of them, too. I'm sick of people making "jokes" and insults about people who use cannabis. It would be more appropriate to say something like, "That's a really great, outstanding idea...what was he smoking?" If anything had to be said at all.And most certainly you are so right when you say, "On that day when they've become humbled and brought to their knees by illness -- cannabis will be there, and it will work for them just like it works for anyone else."
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Comment #5 posted by E_Johnson on March 20, 2007 at 09:01:02 PT
You know what, I don't like this woman
She's written a piece that seems to support us but is layered with seething contempt for us nonetheless.These sarcastic holier than thou postmoderns --- I'm really getting sick of them.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 20, 2007 at 08:52:33 PT
Justices May Take Centrist View of Bong Hits Case
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Comment #3 posted by E_Johnson on March 20, 2007 at 08:36:40 PT
Let them have their cancer and Alzheimer's then
Good thing for these stupid people that cannabis holds no grudges.On that day when they've become humbled and brought to their knees by illness -- cannabis will be there, and it will work for them just like it works for anyone else.
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Comment #2 posted by dongenero on March 20, 2007 at 07:48:10 PT
"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" just a few words put together in such a nonsensical's beautifully powerful though. I doubt that it was intended to have this much impact, but it sure turned out to be great fun!Bong hits; it makes a comment about cannabis, not really for or against, but it raises the issue.Jesus; given our current Administration and the big push form the Evangelical Right over the 2 terms of this Administration, again-itdoesn't really say anything positive or negative, but it raises the idea.It goes to show the hair trigger of the people opposing this banner and opposing anything remotely cannabis related or dissent related.In the process of attacking it, Starr and the Administration have raised the profile of this astronomically beyond a sidewalk in Juneau, Alaska! In the process, they are all looking like fools and making a mockery of the Supreme Court.
Not to mention showing the foolishness of some of the Supreme Court judges.I don't think Joseph Fredrick had any idea he was whipping out this large a spotlight to shine on the system, but he sure did it!What a hoot!
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Comment #1 posted by charmed quark on March 20, 2007 at 07:44:57 PT
Restrict speech only if about drugs
In yesterdays oral arguments, some of the justices appeared to think restricting all speech that is in conflict with the schools' "educational mission" was too broad. Starr says they can always restrict the ruling just to speech about drugs.Wonderful. We have some freedom of speech as long as it is not about drugs. Sounds about right, considering they have restricted other rights when it comes to drugs.
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