Linguistic Anthropology

The study of language has been part of anthropology since the discipline started in the 1ate 1870s. This site is a place for linguistic anthropologists to post their work and discuss important events and trends in the field.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Can someone explain this to me?

Yesterday (25 June 2007), US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, in the case of Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, wrote:

Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.

And yet, on the same day Chief Justice Roberts delivered the court's opinion in Morse v. Frederick. That opinion held that Joseph Frederick, the Alaska high school student who was suspended for holding up a banner reading "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS", had no First Amendment right to display that banner.

The Morse v. Frederick decision balances a number of precedents. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) held, "First Amendment rights of students in the public schools are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings, and must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment."

On the other hand, a number of cases dating back to Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) have held that individuals do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

So, why is this tie decided in favor of the censor, and not the speaker? Is it the schoolhouse gate? or the bong hits?

[UPDATE: Norman Ornstein, guest blogger at The Economist's Democracy in America, comes to much the the same conclusion I did, albeit more eloquently.]

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